Category Archives: War Threats

Nigerian Christmas bomb death toll rises to 37

The Christmas Day bomb blast toll in Abuja has now climbed to 37 dead.

The death toll from a bomb attack on a church just outside Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Christmas Day has risen to 37, with 57 people wounded, a source at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Friday.

The bombing at St Theresa’s Catholic church in Madalla on Abuja’s outskirts during a packed Christmas mass was the deadliest of a series of Christmas attacks on Nigerian churches and other targets by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram.

“As of just now, the latest death toll from the bombing of St Theresa’s church is at 37. Wounded, we have 57,” a senior NEMA official said. The initial death toll had been 27.

The official asked not to be identified because the victims were now in the hands of hospitals and morgues.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s office put out a statement late on Friday pledging that “the government will fight Boko Haram, the group of evil-minded people who want to cause anarchy, to the end”.

Mr Jonathan held talks on Friday with Mohame Bazoum, deputy prime minister of Niger. Security officials suspect the countries’ porous common border is a gathering point for militants, and that Boko Haram may have made contact there with Al Qaeda’s north African wing.

“The perpetrators pass through borders at will and we have to ensure that there are no safe havens for them in the sub-region,” Mr Jonathan said.

He had summoned his security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the growing Islamist militant threat and how to deal with it.

National Security Adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi said that Nigerian security services were considering making contact with moderate members of Boko Haram via “back channels”, even though explicit talks are officially ruled out.

Reuters

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At least 8 killed in Pakistan car-bombing

Deadly blast ... An injured man is rushed to hospital after the detonation in Quetta killed at least eight people.

A bomber remotely has detonated an explosives-laden car outside the home of a former Pakistani minister, killing at least eight people and wounding 30.

The car was parked outside the house of Naseer Mengal, a former minister of petroleum and natural resources, according to police officials in the city of Quetta.

Several militants exchanged fire with private security guards after the blast.

Paramilitary forces cordoned off the area and were searching for the assailants.

The explosion shattered windows and knocked down electricity lines. Live video from local TV channels showed clouds of smoke rising from burning cars at the site of the bombing.

Emergency services and police officials said they expected the casualty figure to rise.

Baluchistan is Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province, where Baluch separatists militants are fighting a protracted insurgency to demand more autonomy and control over the natural resources of their impoverished region.

Much of the violence in the past has been blamed on separatist militants.

Pro-Taliban militants are also active in the province which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.

Pakistan, a key US ally in its war on terror, has seen a wave of violence in past years, most of it in the north-west where troops are battling militants.

Reuters


N Korea vows retaliation for South’s ‘sins’

Two missiles take off at an undisclosed location in North Korea

North Korea has pledged unspecified retaliation against the South, after the final funeral ceremony for Kim Jong-il.

The North has pledged to shun South Korea’s Lee Myung-Bak government for eternity.

It made unspecified threats against the South and promised there would be no change in direction for their country under new leader Kim Jong-un.

The comments were made in an official statement from the powerful National Defence Commission.

The South Korean government will pay, it said, for the “unforgivable sins” of not allowing more South Koreans to travel to the North to pay their respects to Kim Jong-il, whose final funeral service was held on Thursday.

“We solemnly and proudly declare to foolish politicians in the world, including South Korean puppets, that they should not expect any changes from us,” the NDC statement said.

Kim Jong-un was declared “supreme leader of party and army and people” at Thursday’s massive memorial service.

“The world shall clearly see how the millions of our soldiers and people, who united firmly round great leader comrade Kim Jong-Un to transform sorrow into courage and tears into strength, will achieve the final victory,” the NDC statement added.

The world has been watching for any signs of change under the untested new leader, aged in his late 20s.

His father presided over a 1990s famine which killed hundreds of thousands, pursued a nuclear and missile program which brought international sanctions and resisted Chinese pressure to reform the crumbling state-directed economy.

Inter-Korean relations have been frosty since the conservative Mr Lee took office in February 2008 and linked major economic aid to nuclear disarmament.

Ties turned icy after Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

The North denied involvement but shelled a South Korean island in November 2010, killing four people including civilians.

“The scene of pan-national grieving by the people and military… shows the party, military and people united round the revolutionary leadership with one mind, and the invincibility of our socialist system and regime that cannot be toppled,” the NDC statement said.

The South’s Yonhap news agency said a statement issued in the name of the NDC, rather than attributed to an NDC spokesman, was rare.

Stephen McDonell  ABC News

ABC/AFP


Iran official contradicts missile test claim

Iran’s senior navy commander has denied state media reports that the Islamic Republic test-fired long-range missiles during a naval drill, saying the missiles will launch in the next few days.

Mahmoud Mousavi told Iran’s English-language Press TV “the exercise of launching missiles will be carried out in the coming days.”

The semi-official Fars news agency, Press TV and the state-run IRNA news agency had earlier reported that Iran had test-fired long-range and other missiles during the exercise on Saturday.

“All kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air as well as shoulder-launched missiles will be tested in the coming days,” Mr Mousavi told Press TV.

The 10-day naval drill, which began last Saturday, coincided with increased tension in Iran’s nuclear row with Western powers, after the European Union said it was considering a ban –  already in place in the United States – on imports of Iranian oil.

Tehran says the drill is aimed at showing Iran’s resolve to counter any attack by enemies such as Israel or the United States.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out a military option if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran.

Washington and its allies say Iran wants to build nuclear bombs under the cover of a civilian program of uranium enrichment – a claim Tehran denies.

Reuters


Kill charge deepens Iraq crisis

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meets with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby at his office in Baghdad December 8, 2011.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Photo: Reuters

IRAQ has been plunged into its deepest political crisis in years after the  Shiite-dominated government ordered the arrest of the Sunni vice-president,  accusing him of running a death squad that assassinated police officers and  government officials.

The sensational charges just one day after the US withdrew its last combat  troops drew a worried response from Washington and brought Iraq’s tenuous  partnership government to the edge of collapse. A major Sunni-backed political  coalition said its ministers would walk off their jobs, leaving adrift agencies  that handle Iraq’s finances, schools and agriculture.

The accusations against Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi also underlined fears  that Iraq’s leaders may now be using the very institutions America has spent  millions of dollars trying to strengthen – the police, the courts, the media –  as a cudgel to batter their political enemies and consolidate power.

Mr Hashimi last night was in the northern semi-autonomous region of  Kurdistan, beyond the reach of security forces controlled by Baghdad. It was  unclear when – or if – he would return to Baghdad.

In Washington, where officials have been quietly celebrating the end of the  war, Obama administration officials sounded alarmed about the arrest order.

”We are talking to all of the parties and expressed our concern regarding  these developments,” said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.  ”We are urging all sides to work to resolve differences … in a manner  consistent with the rule of law and the democratic political process.”

The breakdown in relations between Prime Minister  Nuri al-Maliki and Mr  Hashimi and his Iraqiya Party arrived at an inopportune moment for the  administration. US officials have spent years trying to urge Iraq’s  Shiite-dominated government to work with the country’s Sunni minority, and are  wary of having things fall apart now.

President Barack Obama said last week, in remarks welcoming troops back to  Fort Bragg,  that Iraq’s future would now be ”in the hands of the Iraqi  people”.

But having removed its combat troops, it was unclear whether the US retained  enough influence to limit sectarian tensions that some analysts say could drag  the country back into the chaos of past years and even split it along  geographical lines.

The government made its case against Mr Hashimi in a half-hour television  broadcast. In grainy video confessions, three men said they had committed  murders on Mr Hashimi’s behalf. They said they had blown up cars, attacked  convoys with silenced pistols and were rewarded with envelopes containing $3000  in US bills.

To government critics, the charges seemed to be part of a wide-reaching  consolidation of power by Mr Maliki. Amid the anxiety stirred by the US  departure and unrest in neighbouring Syria, Mr Maliki, a Shiite, has tightened  his grip on this divided nation by marginalising, intimidating or arresting his  political rivals, many of whom are part of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

An aide to Mr Hashimi denounced the charges. ”This is a coup over all  partners, on political process, on the constitution … This is the new  dictatorship.”

Jack Healy, Baghdad

 


North Korea: Neighbours on alert

Following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, regional powers have voiced fears over the nuclear country’s future course.

Mr Kim had carried out his father’s policy of “military first”, building the world’s fifth largest military force.

And in recent years, North Korea’s series of ballistic missile tests and efforts to build nuclear weapons have fuelled regional tension. The country is reported to have test-fired a short-range missile shortly before Monday’s announcement of Mr Kim’s death.

North Korea is believed to be in possession of a number of missiles with varying ranges. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, some have the capability to carry nuclear warheads.

Graphic showing North Korea missile ranges

After the announcement of Mr Kim’s death, South Korea placed its military on alert.

Relations between the two Koreas remain fraught following an exchange of artillery fire in November 2010 across the disputed western maritime border. It came just months after the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.

North and South Korea are, technically, still in a state of war. The two countries never signed a peace treaty after an armistice ended their 1950-53 conflict.

They are separated by one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders and both have strong military capabilities.

Map of North and South Korea

Elsewhere in the region, governments have also been watching developments closely.

China, North Korea’s closest ally and its biggest trading partner, held phone talks with the US and South Korea on the importance of ensuring security on the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile, the US has called on North Korea to pursue a “path of peace” and has promised to defend regional allies.

It maintains a military presence in South Korea, adding to the capabilities of other key countries in the region.

The regional military balance

Country Military budget Personnel Key equipment
Source: Military Balance 2010, International Institute for Strategic Studies. *globalsecurity.org 2002 estimate
Flag icon Dollar icon Soldier icon Military icons
N Korea $5bn* 1,106,000, plus 4,700,000 reservists and 189,000 paramilitary 3,500+ tanks388 fighter aircraft

63 submarines

64+ missiles

S Korea $24.5bn 687,000, plus 4,500,000 reservists 2,750tanks467 fighter aircraft

13 submarines

12 missiles

China $70.3bn 2,285,000, plus 510,000 reservists and 660,000 paramilitary 6,550+tanks1,184+ fighter aircraft

65 submarines

Thousands of missiles

Japan $52bn 230,300, plus 41,800 reservists and 12,250 paramilitary 880tanks250 fighter aircraft

16 submarines

100+ missiles

Russia $41.05bn 1,027,000 plus 20,000,000 reservists 23,000+ tanks1,200+ fighter aircraft

107 submarines

Thousands of missiles

US $693.2bn 1,580,255, plus 864,547 reservists 9,000+ tanks3,000+ fighter aircraft

71+ submarines

Thousands of missiles