The blast occurred while the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was in St Petersburg – his home town. In the morning he spoke at a forum, while in the afternoon he had a meeting with the Belarus president, Alexander Lukashenko. Opening the meeting about an hour after the blast, Putin expressed his condolences to families of the victims.
He said it was “too early to say” what caused the blast but that it could be “criminal or terrorist”. Putin said he had already spoken with the director of the FSB security services and other law enforcement agencies.
[Most links added are mine – Oui]
A troubled Army vet clandestinely joined the fight against Assad. Then an adventure turned into a tragedy.
Since 2011, according to the Washington Post, as many as fifteen thousand foreigners have joined the conflict in Syria. Last year, in testimony before Congress, Matthew Olsen, then the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, called Syria the “preëminent location” for “Al Qaeda-aligned groups.” isis, in particular, has attracted thousands of volunteers from abroad. One of its top military commanders is an ethnic Chechen from Georgia named Tarkhan Batirashvili. A man who appears in isis beheading videos speaks English with a British accent. The French government recently confirmed that several former soldiers had defected and joined isis.
Harroun, who described himself to others as a “drinking, womanizing American,” wasn’t a jihadist, and he had no desire to blow himself up. His politics were crudely romantic. Later, when he was asked why he had ventured to Syria, he said, “For them to have freedom, you know?”
On January 5, 2013, Harroun and the activist went to the Istanbul airport to fly to Gaziantep [NY Times]. Harroun had loaded his backpack with canned food and medical supplies. Nina Filinovich, the activist’s girlfriend, saw them off, and told me that Harroun was excited to be finally seeing “everything with his own eyes.”
After arriving in Gaziantep, they took a bus to Kilis, a Turkish town on the Syrian border. They entered Syria on foot, and then the activist hired a taxi to take them a few miles south, to the town of Azaz, where they met an F.S.A. commander named Abu Kamel. Harroun knew very little Arabic, so the activist did the talking. Harroun was handed two weapons: a Dragunov sniper rifle and a Kalashnikov. When he stepped outside to test-fire them, the activist told me, “it was obvious that he had taken some training.” [Syrian city of Abu Kamal]
As planned, the activist returned to Turkey. Harroun was left with a group of fighters who, as far as he could tell, were mostly farmers with no military experience. Syrian warplanes sporadically dropped bombs. Three days after Harroun arrived, Abu Kamel announced a plan to ambush a Syrian Army camp near Idlib, sixty miles to the southwest.
The fighters set off in a convoy of pickups. Along the way, another rebel brigade joined them. They struck Harroun as more professional-looking than Abu Kamel’s men. They travelled in vehicles mounted with black flags.
In the summer of 2013, the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, David Shedd, estimated that at least twelve hundred groups were fighting in Syria, many of them holding “far extreme” beliefs. It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between radical groups and avowedly moderate ones like the Free Syrian Army, whose commanders have admitted to collaborating on the battlefield with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. (In a recent Times Magazine article, Theo Padnos, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria for twenty-two months, claimed that the F.S.A. handed him over to al-Nusra.) Somar Rahmooni, a former staff sergeant in the Syrian Army who defected in 2012 and now lives in Gaziantep, told me, “You don’t know who’s loyal to whom anymore.”
Snow was falling as Harroun’s convoy neared the camp, he later told U.S. investigators. The fighters ditched their trucks in a forest, sneaked the rest of the way on foot, and opened fire. Harroun didn’t trust the scope of his sniper rifle, so he just aimed and shot at opposing muzzle flashes. The Syrian soldiers soon forced the rebels to retreat.
- ○ The Chechnya Conflict: Freedom Fighters or Terrorists? By James Hughes
○ Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston bombers and connection to the Caucasus | The Guardian – April 2013 |
○ Boris Yeltsin and the First Chechen War: from Freedom Fighters to Terrorists [NY Times]
Who are the Chechens?
The Chechens are a largely Muslim ethnic group that has lived for centuries in the mountainous North Caucasus region. For the past two hundred years, Chechens have resisted Russian rule. During World War II, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin accused the Chechens of cooperating with the Nazis and forcibly deported the entire population to Kazakhstan and Siberia. Tens of thousands of Chechens died, and the survivors were allowed to return home only after Stalin’s death.
Chechens are an ethnic minority living primarily in Russia’s North Caucasus region. For the past two hundred years, they have generally been governed by Moscow, though they have had varying degrees of de facto autonomy. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Chechen separatists launched a coordinated campaign for independence, which resulted in two devastating wars and an ongoing insurgency in Russia’s republic of Chechnya. Militants in and around Chechnya continue to agitate for independence, though the death of separatist leader Shamil Basayev in July 2006 weakened the separatist movement. However, violence in the North Caucasus has escalated since 2008, and Moscow experienced its most serious attack in six years with the bombing of a metro station in March 2010.
- ○ Boston bombers: role of CIA in Chechen terror
○ Unclassified Summary of Information Handling and Sharing prior to the Boston Marathon Bombings
[Update-1] :: continued below the fold …
[All links added in article are mine – Oui]
An enormous head of steam has built up behind the view that President Putin is somehow the main culprit in the grisly events in North Ossetia. Soundbites and headlines such as “Grief turns to anger”, “Harsh words for government”, and “Criticism mounting against Putin” have abounded, while TV and radio correspondents in Beslan have been pressed on air to say that the people there blame Moscow as much as the terrorists. There have been numerous editorials encouraging us to understand – to quote the Sunday Times – the “underlying causes” of Chechen terrorism (usually Russian authoritarianism), while the widespread use of the word “rebels” to describe people who shoot children shows a surprising indulgence in the face of extreme brutality.
On closer inspection, it turns out that this so-called “mounting criticism” is in fact being driven by a specific group in the Russian political spectrum – and by its American supporters. The leading Russian critics of Putin’s handling of the Beslan crisis are the pro-US politicians Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov – men associated with the extreme neoliberal market reforms which so devastated the Russian economy under the west’s beloved Boris Yeltsin – and the Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow Centre. Funded by its New York head office, this influential thinktank – which operates in tandem with the military-political Rand Corporation, for instance in producing policy papers on Russia’s role in helping the US restructure the “Greater Middle East” – has been quoted repeatedly in recent days blaming Putin for the Chechen atrocities. The centre has also been assiduous over recent months in arguing against Moscow’s claims that there is a link between the Chechens and al-Qaida.
These people peddle essentially the same line as that expressed by Chechen leaders themselves, such as Ahmed Zakaev , the London exile who wrote in these pages yesterday. Other prominent figures who use the Chechen rebellion as a stick with which to beat Putin include Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch who, like Zakaev, was granted political asylum in this country, although the Russian authorities want him on numerous charges. Moscow has often accused Berezovsky of funding Chechen rebels in the past.
… the Russian channels had far better information and images from Beslan than their western competitors. This harshness towards Putin is perhaps explained by the fact that, in the US, the leading group which pleads the Chechen cause is the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC). The list of the self-styled “distinguished Americans” who are its members is a rollcall of the most prominent neoconservatives who so enthusastically support the “war on terror”.
They include Richard Perle, the notorious Pentagon adviser; Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra fame; Kenneth Adelman, the former US ambassador to the UN who egged on the invasion of Iraq by predicting it would be “a cakewalk”; Midge Decter, biographer of Donald Rumsfeld and a director of the rightwing Heritage Foundation; Frank Gaffney of the militarist Centre for Security Policy; Bruce Jackson, former US military intelligence officer and one-time vice-president of Lockheed Martin, now president of the US Committee on Nato; Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, a former admirer of Italian fascism and now a leading proponent of regime change in Iran; and R James Woolsey, the former CIA director who is one of the leading cheerleaders behind George Bush’s plans to re-model the Muslim world along pro-US lines.
- ○ As Putin’s Popularity Soars, Voices of Opposition Are Being Drowned Out | NY Times – March 15, 2014 |
A public secret …
The revelation that the family of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings was from Chechnya prompted new speculation about the attack as Islamic terrorism. Less discussed was the history of U.S. neocons supporting Chechen terrorists as a strategy to weaken Russia, as ex-FBI agent Coleen Rowley recalls.
I almost choked on my coffee listening to neoconservative Rudy Giuliani pompously claim on national TV that he was surprised about any Chechens being responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings because he’s never seen any indication that Chechen extremists harbored animosity toward the U.S.; Guiliani thought they were only focused on Russia.
Giuliani knows full well how the Chechen “terrorists” proved useful to the U.S. in keeping pressure on the Russians, much as the Afghan mujahedeen were used in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1980 to 1989. In fact, many neocons signed up as Chechnya’s “friends,” including former CIA Director James Woolsey.
Author John Laughland wrote: “the leading group which pleads the Chechen cause is the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC). The list of the self-styled ‘distinguished Americans’ who are its members is a roll call of the most prominent neoconservatives who so enthusiastically support the ‘war on terror.’
The ACPC later sanitized “Chechnya” to “Caucasus” so it’s rebranded itself as the “American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus.”
Of course, Giuliani also just happens to be one of several neocons and corrupt politicians who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from MEK sources when that Iranian group was listed by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The money paid for these American politicians to lobby (illegally under the Patriot Act) U.S. officials to get MEK off the FTO list.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Alice in Wonderland is an understatement if you understand the full reality of what’s going on. But if you can handle going down the rabbit hole even further, check out prominent former New York Times journalist (and author of The Commission book) Phil Shenon’s discovery of the incredible “Terrible Missed Chance” a couple of years ago.
Shenon’s discovery involved key information that the FBI and the entire “intelligence” community mishandled and covered up, not only before 9/11 but for a decade afterward. And it also related to the exact point of my 2002 “whistleblower memo” that led to the post 9/11 DOJ-Inspector General investigation about FBI failures and also partially helped launch the 9/11 Commission investigation.
But still the full truth did not come out, even after Shenon’s blockbuster discovery in 2011 of the April 2001 memo linking the main Chechen leader Ibn al Khattab (Saudi born) to Osama bin Laden. The buried April 2001 memo had been addressed to FBI Director Louis Freeh (another illegal recipient of MEK money, by the way!) and also to eight of the FBI’s top counter-terrorism officials.
But officials can get confused when their former covert “assets” turn into enemies themselves. That’s what has happened with al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in Libya and Syria, fighters who the U.S. government favored in their efforts to topple the Qaddafi and Assad regimes, respectively. These extremists are prone to turn against their American arms suppliers and handlers once the common enemy is defeated.
The same MO exists with the U.S. and Israel currently collaborating with the Iranian MEK terrorists who have committed assassinations inside Iran. The U.S. government has recently shifted the MEK terrorists from the ranks of “bad” to “good” terrorists as part of a broader campaign to undermine the Iranian government. For details, see “Our (New) Terrorists, the MEK: Have We Seen This Movie Before?”
- ○ Bush Funded CIA Operations of Jundallah, Not Mossad
○ Jewish State of Israel Run by Islamophobes
○ Meet the Americans Who Put Together the Coup in Kiev