At least 20 people were killed by a Yemen suicide attack. Gunmen wearing army uniforms attacked Yemen’s defence ministry compound in the capital, Sanaa.
Foreign medical staff were said to be among the dead, with witnesses saying the gunmen deliberately targeted them, killing four doctors and four nurses.
Yemen has been grappling with al Qaeda linked groups who have repeatedly attacked government officials and installations over the past two years.
The security threat is an international concern. Yemen shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and the branch of al-Qaeda based there has plotted attacks against western targets.
The attack on Thursday began as ministry employees were arriving for work when a vehicle exploded at the compound’s gate, sources said.
“The attack took place shortly after working hours started at the ministry, when suicide bombers drove a car into the gate,” one source said.
The Yemen suicide attack blast shook the bustling Bab al-Yemen neighbourhood on the edge of Sanaa’s old city, a warren of market stalls and stone tower houses decorated with stained glass windows and ornate plasterwork.
Plumes of smoke billowed over the area, whereYemen’s central bank is also located.
“The explosion was very violent, the whole place shook because of it and plumes of smoke rose from the building,” said an eyewitness.
Security forces retook the compound after killing most of the attackers, the ministry said, making no reference to a suicide attacker.
Medics and a ministry official said the gunmen pulled a western doctor and a Filipina nurse into the hospital’s courtyard and shot them in front of local staff.
A medical source who works at one of the hospitals where some of the victims were taken said a total of two female Yemeni doctors, a Filipino surgeon, a western doctor and four foreign nurses from India and the Philippines were shot dead.
Ambulance sirens and gunshots were heard after the blast as a second vehicle entered the compound carrying armed men dressed in Yemeni army uniforms and exchanged fire with soldiers.
Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi later visited the compound, met senior military officials and ordered an investigation.
Yemeni analyst Abdelrazzaq al-Jamal drew parallels with an attack claimed by al-Qaeda on a military base in eastern Yemen in September.
“The operation carries the fingerprints of al-Qaeda because of the suicide nature of the attack,” he said. The ministry said the militants struck at an area were construction work was taking place near the hospital facility. It said that most of [...]
The United Nation’s special envoy for Syria is pressing ahead to organize a Syria peace conference to try to bring the devastating war in Syria to a close.
But even if the invitation list can be worked out in coming days, it is virtually certain that some major players in the conflict won’t be at the table.
That means the Syria fighting is likely to continue, even if the late-January conference yields a compromise between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the mainline moderate opposition, who will be in attendance, regional analysts say.
Over nearly three years, the civil war has resulted in 125,000 deaths and perhaps the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Lakhdar Brahimi , the Syria envoy for both the UN and the Arab League, is urging that Iran and Saudi Arabia be invited to the conference, in realpolitik recognition of the key roles that both are playing in the conflict – Iran on the side of Mr. Assad, and Saudi Arabia in the opposition’s corner.
But even if Mr. Brahimi can persuade the United States to OK Iran’s participation – the US has long said that Iran should be allowed to attend only if it supports the conference goal of a political transition in Syria to a new, democratic government – some crucial players in the conflict would still be outside the tent.
Under no circumstances will the Syrian jihadists groups gaining ground in Syria be part of the international negotiations.
So the challenge they present to both Syria and to the region will remain, no matter what happens at the conference, regional experts note.
After more than a year of off-and-on planning for a Syria peace conference , Brahimi announced last month that the gathering, nicknamed “Geneva II” in diplomatic parlance, will begin Jan. 22 in Geneva . (Actually there are even questions as to whether the conference can take place in Geneva, because a long-planned World Economic Forum and a major watch convention already have hotels booked up during the conference dates.)
Brahimi plans to hold another round of meetings in Geneva Dec. 20, with the US and Russia, which along with the UN are cosponsors of the Syria peace talks , and then with other regional powers.
At that time, he hopes to be able to announce the invitation list, UN officials say.
“It looks like we’re getting to the point where Mr. Brahimi should be in a position at that time to announce who is to be invited to the Syria peace conference,” says Farhan Haq, a spokesman in the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“The most important thing is that there be one [Syrian] government delegation, and one opposition delegation, because in the end it’s the [...]
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is a Muslim separatist group founded by militant Uighurs, members of the Turkic-speaking ethnic majority in northwest China’s Xinjiang Province.
The U.S. State Department listed the ETIM as a terrorist organization in 2002 during a period of increased U.S.-Chinese cooperation on antiterrorism in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Most recently, the Chinese government blamed the group for an apparent suicide car crash in Tiananmen Square on October 27, 2013, that killed five people, three of them Uighurs riding in the vehicle.
The event marked the first time the state blamed an attack on terrorists, with China’s security chief calling ETIM China’s “most direct and realistic security threat,” although Uighur activists denied the charges.
Chinese authorities, long suspicious of the ETIM, also labeled the group a security hazard during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Share
What is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement?
Experts say detailed, reliable information about the ETIM is hard to come by, and they disagree about the extent of the ETIM’s terrorist activities and ties to global terrorism.
Xinjiang Province, where the group is based, is a vast, sparsely populated area that shares borders with eight countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The first mention of ETIM surfaced around 2000, when a Russian newspaper reported that Osama bin Laden had pledged funds to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and ETIM during a 1999 meeting in Afghanistan.
Reportedly founded by Hasan Mahsum , a Uighur from Xinjiang’s Kashgar region, ETIM has been listed by the State Department as one of the more extreme separatist groups seeking an independent state called East Turkestan that would cover an area including parts of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Xingjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
After Mahsum’s assassination by Pakistani troops in 2003 during a raid on a suspected al-Qaeda hideout near the Afghanistan border, the group was led by Abdul Haq.
He was reportedly killed in Pakistan in 2010. Protesters hoist an East Turkestan flag during a 2009 demonstration against the riots in China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang.
The U.S.-based intelligence firm Stratfor says the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) is another name for the ETIM.
That group took credit for a series of attacks in several Chinese cities in 2008, including deadly bus explosions in Shanghai and Kunming.
According to Stratfor, the TIP’s “claims of responsibility appear exaggerated, but the threat TIP poses cannot be ignored.” Stratfor also says that the TIP had expanded its presence on the Internet, issuing videos calling for a jihad by Uighurs in Xinjiang. [...]
A suicide bomber blew himself up in central Damascus Tuesday and killed four people, the state media said, while a Syrian mother superior accused the Syrian opposition groups of abducting 12 nuns from a predominantly Christian village near the capital.
The mother superior at Saidnaya Convent, Febronia Nabhan, said the nuns and three other women were taken the day before from the predominantly Christian village of Maaloula to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud, which also has a large Christian population.
Her comments could not be independently confirmed.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists around the country, said that “the fate of nuns at the Mar Takla Convent in Maaloula is unknown.”
It added there were conflicting reports on whether they were taken to a nearby area or not.
The Observatory says it received information late Monday saying that the nuns “are still alive.” It gave no further details.
Nabhan told The Associated Press that the Maaloula convent’s mother superior, Pelagia Sayaf, called her late Monday from Yabroud and said they were all “fine and safe.”
Meanwhile, Syria’s state TV reported that suicide bombers set off their explosive vest in central Damascus, killing four and wounding 17 others.
It TV gave no further details about the blast in the central Jisr Abyad neighbourhood and what the target was.
Such blasts in Damascus are not uncommon and have killed scores of people in the city.
Syrian rebels captured large parts of Maaloula, some 60 kilometres northeast of the capital, on Monday after three days of fighting.
Activists say the Syrian opposition groups who stormed the town included members of the al Qaeda linked Groups Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front.
Syria’s minorities, including Christians, have mostly sided with President Bashar Assad or remained neutral, fearing for their fate if the rebels, in whose ranks Syrian jihadists are increasingly prominent, come to power.
Christians have accused radicals among the rebels of abusing residents and vandalizing churches after taking Christian towns.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry urged the international community to condemn the rebel attack on Maaloula.
In two letters sent to the heads of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General late Monday, the ministry said: “Syria is facing a barbarian war launched by extremist … gangs targeting its present and future.”
It said “terrorists” broke into Mar Takla Convent and held Sayyaf and a number of nuns “as hostages and sabotaged churches and houses.”
The ministry urged the UN Security Council to condemn these terrorist attacks in “the strongest terms” and exert pressure on the countries which are supporting these groups to stop providing them with logistical and financial support. [...]
The terror threat in US is growing and changing, making Americans less safe than they were in years past, the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees said Sunday.
“Terror is up worldwide,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “The statistics indicate that.
The fatalities are way up.”
Feinstein made her comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” during a joint interview with Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who argued the terror Al Qaeda linked groups continue to grow and consolidate.
“What’s happening in places like Syria [is] that you have a pooling of Al-Qaeda and affiliates. … Groups have changed the way they communicate, which means it’s less likely that we’re going to be able to detect something prior to an event.”
Rogers also suggested that public scrutiny over U.S. intelligence work, brought on by recent disclosures about the efforts of the National Security Agency and others, has hurt anti-terror efforts.
“We’re fighting amongst ourselves here in this country about the role of our intelligence community,” he said.
“That is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats. Our intelligence community isn’t the bad guys.”
Rogers also said terrorists are adopting the idea that “maybe smaller events are OK” and still might achieve their goals.
“That makes it exponentially harder for our intelligence services to stop an event like that from happening,” he said.
So why the terror threat level in US is growing ? Feinstein attributed it in part to improved weaponry.
“There are new bombs, a lot of suicide bombers and very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs,” she said.
Though neither lawmaker offered specifics about what led them to their conclusions, Feinstein spoke generally of “a real displaced aggression in very fundamentalist islamists , and that is that the West is responsible for everything that goes wrong and that the only thing that’s going to solve this is Islamic Shariah law and the concept of the caliphate.”
The caliphate is an Islamic state led by a religious and political leader, or caliph, considered a successor of Prophet Muhammad who governs by Shariah law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. YES, WE’RE MORE in DANGER [...]