Iraq’s Best/Worst Bombs Making Their Way Through Turkey To Syria

Syrian rebels now using EFPs in bombs, bane of U.S. in Iraq

Efp_iraq2a_2The picture, above, is of an Iraqi EFP cache.

By David Enders

McClatchy Newspapers

KHAN SHEIKHOUN, Syria — Rebels have overcome the shortages of arms that plagued the early days of their fight to topple Syria’s government, when their commanders complained of running out of ammunition.

Though they still lack the kind of heavy weaponry that might help them decisively drive back the military, rebels in central Syria are constructing bigger and more effective bombs, and a steady flow of money from the militants’ leadership in Turkey has allowed them to purchase sufficient amounts of small arms.

Some groups have said recently that they have an increased number of modern anti-tank rockets, and others say they’re manufacturing so-called explosively formed penetrators to increase the killing power of their roadside bombs. EFPs, cone-shaped copper plates that are blasted into vehicles when the bombs explode, wreaked havoc on U.S. vehicles in Iraq.

“They are hard to get and expensive,” complained Abu Omar, a 25-year-old former university student who spends his days making bombs with fertilizer, mostly by packing it into empty cooking-gas containers. Syrian state-run news agencies routinely have reported seizures of such materials in past months across the country. For targeting tanks, he packs truck axles cut in half full of explosives, he said.

Members of the armed opposition say the more sophisticated weapons are being transported across the border from Turkey with the knowledge of the Turkish intelligence service, an allegation Turkey has previously denied.

The improved supply of weapons to the rebels is clearly evident, both to reporters traveling in rebel-held area and in the rising death toll among Syrian security forces in clashes with the rebels. On Wednesday, the Syrian government announced the funerals of another 27 soldiers and police officers who died in clashes with the rebels, bringing to 322 the number of such deaths so far in June. Rebel casualties are uncertain, but in the same time period the Syrian Network for Human Rights has published daily tallies of 751 deaths it attributed to pro-government forces, including 78 at Qubeir who allegedly were killed by local militia known as shabiha.

Many rebel commanders in this part of Syria, where rebel units can travel largely without encountering military forces, didn’t want to address the subject of increased arms supplies, fearing that admitting they’re better armed and funded than before might make the world less sympathetic to their cause. The would-be revolutionaries have gone to lengths to paint themselves as the victims in what’s become an all-out civil war.

But they hint at arms shipments. A Turkish-speaking Syrian who arrived in Khan Sheikhoun earlier this week to drop off communications equipment acknowledged the arrival of more sophisticated weapons, but he wouldn’t say exactly what they were.

“It’s a surprise. Just wait,” the man said, smiling and promising that the rebels would be going on the offensive in coming weeks. Other commanders in the area have said the same.

The promise of a rebel offensive also carries the promise of more destruction and displacement. According to the Turkish government, about 4,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey in the last week, bringing the number of Syrians taking refuge in seven camps just inside the Turkish border to nearly 30,000. The cramped camps have become training grounds for the rebels, who share expertise with one another before slipping back across the border.

Much of the rebels’ improved firepower appears to come from local innovation.

“Before the revolution, I worked with electronics,” said Isam al Hamadee, the leader of a group of fighters from the town of Kefar Nbouda who’s become well known among local rebels for his expertise in building remotely detonated bombs.

The rebels also are manufacturing their own rockets, including remote-controlled anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets.

But for some groups, the lack of heavy weapons has prompted a shift to more extreme tactics.

Ahrar al Sham, a group that coordinates with the rebels who operate under the name Free Syrian Army but isn’t directly under its leadership, carried out a suicide bombing against a checkpoint near this battered city last Thursday.

The leader of the group here, who uses the nom-de-guerre Abu Hamza, said the bombing was the first of its kind that his group had carried out, though other branches of Ahrar al Sham, which has proliferated across north-central Syria, had done so.

Members of Ahrar al Sham said the bomber was a 19-year-old man from Khan Sheikhoun who’d been present when Syrian soldiers fired on a group of demonstrators in the city last month, killing a number of them. The man, who took the nom-de-guerre Abu Abdullah, had seen one of his friends die.

“Of course some of the people had reservations,” Abu Hamza said. “But Abu Abdullah wanted to do this. He put it in his mind and couldn’t sleep.”

“It is better to die this way rather than be slaughtered like the people in Houla,” Abu Hamza said, referring to the 80 women and children who were killed last month, allegedly by supporters of the government of President Bashar Assad. “These operations will continue if the world doesn’t give us weapons. We have more people ready to do this.”

“What would you do if the government was killing your family? Your children?” asked one rebel who’d gathered with hundreds of others to watch smoke rise from the massive bombing. “We don’t have heavy weapons, and they have tanks and helicopters.”

Rebels frequently express concern that they’ll be seen as terrorists in the West, sometimes joking with reporters, sometimes serious. It was the selection of a military checkpoint as the target for the bombing that was the issue, not the tactic of a suicide bombing itself.

“We don’t care what the outside world thinks,” another member of Ahrar al Sham said, when he was asked whether such bombings might be seen as counterproductive to their cause.

Syrian and international media didn’t report the bombing, which engulfed the checkpoint in smoke. It’s unclear how many people were killed and whether any civilians died in the blast.

Enders is a McClatchy special correspondent.


Al Aribiya Stirring the Pot In the Philippines–“Al-Qaeda,” Enemy or Ally?

[With the Philippine military and the government giving two different explanations for the alleged “missing” Jordanian news man from Al Arabiya, you know that you are smelling a rat.  Look for the Philippine jungle to explode with murders, bombings and kidnappings in the near future for the Saudi/Dubai viewers’ entertainment.  Will the right-thinking American people and world supporters tire of the Pentagon’s bullshit stories about “Al-Qaeda” (the magical, fairy-like creatures who are simultaneously our enemies and our friends), and shut-down the military/cia before they can finish the fake drama, all the way to the planned final act?  Will America wake-up in time to stop the Pentagon, or wait until the psychodrama is over and the lights are being shut-off?]

Jordanian secretly entered Sulu – military

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines is not convinced Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani was abducted in Patikul, Sulu.

A Palace spokesman, however, said Atyani was indeed help captive and is now in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.

Atyani and his Filipino crew, Rolando Retrero and Ramilito Vera, were reported missing since going out to film a documentary last Tuesday.

Speaking to ANC, Western Mindanao Command spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said they have received conflicting reports on the real purpose of Atyani’s trip to Sulu.

Cabangbang said Atyani secretly entered Sulu and used a different name upon checking-in at a hotel.

The spokesman said Atyani’s employer Al Arabiya has not contacted Philippine authorities as of this time. A crisis committee is now taking charge of search and rescue operations.

Palace confirms ‘missing’ Jordanian journalist now with Abu Sayyaf

Malacañang confirmed Monday that ‘missing’ Jordanian national and Al Arabiya news network Southeast Asia bureau chief Baker Atyani and his team are in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf after they sought the bandit group for an interview in Sulu last week.

“What we can confirm is that he [Atyani] is in the hands of [the] Abu Sayyaf and that he went there voluntarily for an interview,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a press briefing.

“At 5 a.m. on June 12, I think he (Atyani) was seen riding a vehicle voluntarily. After that, we have no information anymore as to his whereabouts until today,” Lacierda added.
He reiterated that Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan offered Atyani security but the latter declined it.
Asked if Atyani and his team are being held hostage by the bandit group, Lacierda said: “What we can confirm is that he went there voluntarily to interview the Abu Sayyaf Group. It is also confirmed that he has in another occasion, had the opportunity to interview [the] Abu Sayyaf head previously.”An earlier report by Agence France-Presse said an initial investigation showed that the Al Arabiya news team checked in at the Sulu State College Hostel in Jolo on Monday, June 11, as they were to shoot a television documentary.On Tuesday, June 12, the three joined local media in an interview with Tan after which they went to Jolo town proper. The Al Arabiya news team then failed to return.

Authorities not informed

Lacierda said Atyani did not inform authorities that he and his team were going to interview the Abu Sayyaf, which reportedly has links to the al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organizations.
Asked if the government could have prevented Atyani from pushing through with his plans to talk with the group, Lacierda said the government could only inform him about the possible dangers of doing so.
“We would not wish to proscribe the right to their duties as a responsible journalist. The best that we can do is to warn them of the (dangers) and to caution them,” he said.
He believed the government implemented enough precautionary measures to prevent the incident from happening.
“We’ve provided security for him… We offered actually security for him; he refused. We offered him a place to stay; he refused. So I believe that on the part of the provincial government and the local government in Sulu, they have done their job to extend all the hospitality and security that they can do,” he said.
Asked if the Abu Sayyaf has been resurgent in the area, Lacierda said he cannot say.
“This is primarily an interview that the Jordanian journalist decided to do. So as to what the intentions of the ASG [are] when they agreed to be interviewed, that’s beyond our comprehension,” he said.
Lacierda said the lines of communication are now on between Tan and the bandit group.
“He [Tan] formed a crisis committee and they are in discussions,” he said, quickly adding that the government will implement the no ransom policy if the group of Atyani is being held against their will.Jolo is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a bandit group that has been blamed for most of the country’s worst terror attacks as well as kidnappings of foreigners.In February, two birdwatchers from Europe, Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, and Dutchman Ewold Horn, 52, were seized by armed men in Tawi-tawi. There is no information yet on their whereabouts. Authorities also could not say if the Abu Sayyaf is responsible for the abduction. — RSJ/KG, GMA News

Syria strategy looks like bloody repeat

Protesters chant slogans against the Syrian regime and Russia’s support of President Bashar Assad, seen in a poster with a shoe on his face, in the southern port city of Sidon, in Lebanon on Sunday. (MOHAMMED ZATAARI / AP)
Now that a United Nations official has declared the situation in Syria to be a civil war, it is legitimate for the western media to refer to the anti-regime forces as rebels.

Up until this juncture, those Syrians participating in the armed uprising, which began in March, 2011, were categorized as “pro-democracy demonstrators” or simply civilians. In turn, the security forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been labelled as monsters, goons, thugs and baby-killers.

Since the outset, the western powers, led by the U.S. and a cheerleading Canada, have declared their objective to be regime change in Syria.

Thus far, Canada’s position has entailed the tightening of sanctions, expulsion of diplomats and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird screaming, “Assad must go!” at the now-empty Syrian Embassy in Ottawa.

In the black-and-white world of propaganda, this demonization of the Assad regime requires a counter-balance — lionizing the brave rebel forces who dare oppose him.

One problem with that is the fact that after 15 months of violent revolt, there isn’t a single pre-eminent leader emerging to unite the Syrian opposition under a single banner.

Instead, it is becoming clear that the loose coalition of rebel forces is a fractious collection based on tribal-ethnic loyalties and religious divisions. As Assad represents a secular platform, many of his enemies are in fact Islamic fundamentalists.

While that fact should automatically give one pause for thought, thinking is for sissies when the war drums are pounding — and John Baird ain’t no sissy. “Assad must go!”

One would think it would be virtually impossible to portray Islamic fundamentalists in a favourable light, especially after Canada has seen 158 killed and close to 2,000 wounded or injured battling similar fanatics in Afghanistan over the past decade.

Rick Hillier, the former chief of defence staff, referred to such individuals as “scumbags and murderers.” He denounced their tactic of employing improvised explosive devices as “cowardly.”

Now, even as our NATO allies continue to take mounting casualties in Afghanistan, western reporters embedded with Syrian rebel forces are painting the Islamic fundamentalists as heroic freedom fighters.

Last week, a report by David Enders, of the American media outlet McClatchy Newspapers, revealed that the Syrian rebels are using explosively formed penetrators to knock out Assad’s armoured vehicles. It was noted that these same penetrators were the bane of U.S. forces during their occupation of neighbouring Iraq.

Again, this might make one contemplate the possibility that Assad is not beyond reason when he claims to be combating “foreign fighters bent on establishing an Islamic republic.”

After all, this is the same type of enemy the Americans repeatedly claimed to be fighting in Iraq, and it appears they are using the same tactics and weaponry.

That would complicate things though, so it is best to just bellow: “Assad must go!”

Enders also reported that the rebels are now receiving a large influx of ammunition and weapons, presumed to be flowing across the Turkish border. This fact was somewhat contentious, as the rebels wish to continue being portrayed as defenceless underdogs by the western media.

However, as Enders wrote, “the improved supply of weapons to the rebels is clearly evident, both to reporters travelling in rebel-held areas and in the rising death toll among Syrian security forces in clashes with the rebels.”

Now there is word that Russia may supply Assad with helicopter gunships so that his security forces might regain the upper hand.

This has prompted demands from the western powers for the UN to authorize a no-fly zone over Syria, which would allow NATO’s air force to tip the balance in favour of the rebels, as they did in Libya.

That strategy, of course, brings us to look at the ongoing violence and instability in Libya these days, where tribes and militias are still battling for control in the post-Gadhafi power vacuum.

One other suggestion put forward was to furnish the Syrian rebels with sophisticated ground-to-air missiles so they could defeat the Russian helicopters in the same way the Afghan mujahedeen defeated the Soviets in the 1980s.

Yeah. That couldn’t possibly backfire on us, could it?

Scott Taylor is editor of Esprit de Corps.

Libya Owes Jordan $100million+ for Unpaid Hospital Bills, Equivalent Amount Due Jordanian Hotels

Cartoon: Emad Hajjaj

Cartoon: Emad Hajjaj

In the cartoon, the guy on the right is a Libyan patient.

The guy on the left is Hajjaj’s creation, whose name is Abu Mahjoob, meaning “Father of the Hidden.” He represents sort of a Jordanian “average Joe.”

So, Abu Mahjoob is saying: “No of course not (you’re not bothering me), you are most welcome, I hope you feel better, may God heal you. Because you got rid of the ‘zenga zenga,’ now you turn our hospitals into one? Welcome uncle!”

The Libyan patient responds by saying the equivalent of, “peace out brother.”

Jordan eager for Libya to pay bills

Amman – After the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya’s conflict, tens of thousands of Libyans were flown for hospital treatment in Jordan. Now the cash-strapped kingdom is desperate for their bills to be paid.

Jordan, which touts itself as a top destination in the Arab world for medical care, is demanding that Tripoli pay up more than $200m in medical and hotel bills.

The total is a sizeable amount for a country grappling with rising fuel and electricity prices, little or no natural resources and a huge external debt that could reach $24.6bn by the end of this year.

“Around 40 out of Jordan’s 60 private hospitals treated more than 55 000 Libyans in the past six months. I think many other countries would have failed to meet such a challenge,” Fawzi Hammuri, head of Jordan’s Private Hospitals Association, said.

“Every week, we used to receive 10 or 12 airplanes full of Libyan patients, including those who were wounded after the fall of Gaddafi. The hospitals didn’t ask for guarantees from those patients on humanitarian and brotherly grounds.”

National carrier Royal Jordanian flies 13 times a week to Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata.

50 000 patients

According to Hammuri, Tripoli now owes $105m to Amman in medical bills, while around 2 000 Libyan patients are still hospitalised in the Jordanian capital.

“We signed an agreement in November with a Libyan committee in charge of treating Libyan patients. The panel asked hospitals to do everything possible for the patients. When we asked the committee to pay, it told us the bills needed to be examined first, and they are still being examined,” said Hammuri.

“Many Jordanian hospitals now refuse to take Libyan patients.”

Citing Libyan officials, Hammuri said countries like Tunisia, Turkey, Italy and Greece have treated around 50 000 patients since last year’s conflict in Libya. “This has cost the Libyans $1.4bn,” he said.

A Libyan health ministry official said a joint committee is currently reviewing the outstanding bills.

“Many of the bills have errors,” she said, adding that the two countries have agreed that half of the outstanding bills will be paid as soon as the audit is completed.

Mired in scandal

“There are people who are going to Jordan for treatment through the ministry and others through other means,” she added.

Libya’s programme to treat the war wounded abroad has been mired in scandal with reports of state funds lavishly spent on cosmetic treatments, in vitro fertilisation and stipends for spouses and relatives.

Hatem Azraai, Jordan’s health ministry spokesperson, urged the Libyans to “organise themselves”.

“The problem started when the hospitals made deals with the Libyan side, outside the umbrella of the Jordanian ministry, which had to interfere at a later stage when the hospitals failed to get their money,” Azraai said.

“The health ministries in the two countries signed an agreement to resolve this issue. But the Libyans need to organise themselves in order to pay the bills.”

During their stay in Jordan, the Libyans rented furnished and serviced apartments and stayed in dozens of hotels, which now demand around $100m in bills.


The outstanding bills have exacerbated conditions for many hotels, which, according to industry experts, are close to bankruptcy.

“Many of the hotels face bankruptcy. Others failed to pay back loans they took from banks to accommodate the Libyan patients. It is chaos,” said Mohammad Balluti, a spokesperson for a group of 70 hotels.

“I think the Libyans owe $100m to Jordanian hotels.”

Hotel owners have held demonstrations outside Tripoli’s embassy in Amman, while some of them have reportedly evicted their Libyan guests.

The Jordan Hotel Association, which represents 470 hotels and guesthouses across the country, said 200 establishments had received Libyans in Amman alone.

“We have outstanding bills due to disputes among the various Libyan groups” which organised the medical trips to Jordan, said Michael Nazzal, chairperson of the association.

Tourism accounts for 14% of GDP in the kingdom of 6.7 million people, and revenues from the industry generated $1.3bn in the first five months of 2012.

“We need a solution to this problem. It is summer now. We expect tourists and we have to accommodate them,” said Balluti.

Russia is preparing to send two amphibious assault ships to the Syrian port of Tartus

 Landing Ship “Nikolay Filchenkov” 

Large Landing Ship “Tsezar Kunikov

Russia sending two warships to Syrian coast: report


MOSCOW — Russia is preparing to send two amphibious assault ships to the Syrian port of Tartus where Moscow operates a strategic naval base to ensure safety of its nationals, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.

“Two major amphibious ships — The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov — are preparing to be dispatched to Tartus outside of their schedule,” the Russian news agency quoted an unidentified officer from the Russian naval headquarters as saying.

The two ships will carry a “large” group of marines, Interfax added. There was no official confirmation of the report from the navy or the defence ministry.

The Tsezar Kunikov can carry 150 landing troops and various armaments including tanks, while The Nikolai Filchenkov can carry up to 1,500 tonnes of cargo and equipment, the report said.

Interfax said that the ships could be used to evacuate Russian nationals.

“The crews of The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov and SB-15 rescue tug together with marines on board are able to ensure security of Russian nationals and evacuate part of the property of the logistical support base if need be,” Interfax quoted a source as saying.

The protracted conflict between the ruling regime and the opposition in Syria shows no signs of easing. The opposition has demanded the deployment of armed peacekeepers after UN observers halted their work because of bloodshed.