U.S. Now Moving Toward Armed Drones, Lethal Force in Niger

The Trump administration is paving the way for lethal strikes against terrorists in Niger as the U.S. military pushes forward with a plan to arm the Reaper drones that fly over that country, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.

France has already decided to arm its drones in the region, U.S. documents show, and the move to arm U.S. Reapers has been under consideration for some time — long before this month's ambush of a Green Beret unit that resulted in the deaths of four American soldiers. But that incident, details of which are still coming to light, is fueling an urgency within the Trump administration to take more aggressive steps against the terrorist groups that are operating in North and West Africa, according to intelligence and military officials.

Full story here: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/africa/u-s-now-moving-toward-armed-drones-lethal-force-niger-n814341

U.S. Soldiers in Niger Were Pursuing ISIS Recruiter When Ambushed


The U.S. Special Forces unit that came under attack in Niger earlier this month had been pursuing a senior militant, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.

The officials did not provide the name of the target, whom one of the officials described as an ISIS recruiter. The soldiers did not succeed in catching him.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Monday that the Green Berets set out on a reconnaissance mission, and that the intelligence suggested there was a low risk of contact with the enemy. He also said the military was investigating whether the mission changed as it unfolded.

One theory, said an official with direct knowledge of the military's investigation, is that the soldiers were gathering information about the target, and, after learning his whereabouts, decided to pursue him. A big question would then be whether the unit got authorization, and whether the risks were assessed.

Full story here: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/africa/u-s-soldiers-niger-were-pursuing-isis-recruiter-when-ambushed-n813746


Three U.S. Soldiers Killed in Niger in Suspected Ambush


Three U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers were killed and two were wounded in Niger on Wednesday, in an ambush by suspected Islamic militants operating from Mali, multiple sources with knowledge of the incident told NBC News.

According to the sources, one soldier form Niger was also killed in the attack.

The U.S. military did not confirm the deaths officially, but did acknowledge that a “hostile fire” incident involving U.S. troops had occurred.

“We are working to confirm details of the incident and will have more information as soon as we can confirm facts on the ground,” said a spokesperson for Africa Command, or AFRICOM. The military generally does not confirm nor identify American casualties until it has ensured that the deceased’s family members have been properly notified.

Full story here: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/three-u-s-soldiers-killed-niger-suspected-ambush-n807821?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma


The Vigilantes Hunting Migrants on the Edge of Europe

By Mac William Bishop

NEAR MALKO TARNOVO, Bulgaria — Figures in camouflage and ski masks gather at a fishing lodge. Many are armed with long knives, bayonets and hatchets.

The 35 men and women are on the hunt in Strandzha Massif, a forested mountain range on Bulgaria's border with Turkey. Migrants trying to cross into Europe are their prey.

Patches on their irregular uniforms — a coat of arms bearing a snarling wolf's head framed by Cyrillic text — proclaim them to be members of the Bulgarian National Movement Shipka, abbreviated in Bulgarian as "BNO Shipka."

Members of the paramilitary organization form into ranks as their leader, Vladimir Rusev, speaks. A former colonel who says he fought in Chechnya as a volunteer alongside Russians, Rusev declares his support for a man they admire: President Donald Trump.

"The CIA is trying to undermine Trump," said Rusev, a compact 58-year-old with a neat mustache and short-cropped hair. "They want to destroy him. We offer our support to him."

Trump's hard-line stance on immigration and vocal criticism of Islam finds an appreciative audience here.

Most BNO Shipka members are friendly, courteous and open. The organization's website projects a different message: slick videos replete with firearms and military training, and declarations that Europe must be defended against Islam.

Full story here: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/europes-border-crisis/bulgarian-vigilantes-patrol-turkey-border-keep-migrants-out-n723481

The Hunt: Inside the U.S. Special Forces Mission to Find Joseph Kony

A lot of people ask why, after so many years, it is still so hard to find Joseph Kony and the final LRA holdouts. There are a lot of factors that play a role, including corruption, collaboration and complicity by regional actors.

Many of the sources I spoke with and public research by activists involved in the counter-LRA mission implicates Sudan's Armed Forces, or at least members of it. There is evidence to suggest SAF commanders have provided Kony and senior LRA commanders with a safe haven in the Kafia Kingi area, and given him advanced warning of impending raids.

The disputed nature of the Kafia Kingi territory makes it politically difficult for the African Union Regional Task Force - let alone the Americans - to conduct operations there without notifying Sudan in advance.

That said, there are also environmental considerations. The area in which the LRA operates - from northern DR Congo to southern Sudan, including parts of South Sudan and the Central African Republic, is huge, and sparsely populated. It runs the gamut from dense tropical rainforest (i.e. "jungle"), to Savannah grasslands and near-desert as you move into Sudan.

Here is a short clip from a patrol with American green berets and Ugandan soldiers, which I think eloquently illustrates the difficulties in finding someone who doesn't want to be found...

Apologies for the mic rubbing against the foliage, but at that point I was just letting the camera run and hoping I didn't lose the patrol. So it sounds louder than it actually was at the time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a ninja - but I was moving as quietly as everyone else (call it a professional pride issue)...

My full story here: http://www.nbcnews.com/…/inside-green-berets-hunt-warlord-j…

At a Hospital in Aleppo, Evidence of a Detested Weapon


Russian-made cluster bombs — weapons that kill indiscriminately and inflict long-lasting damage — were used in an attack on at least one hospital in the ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo last week, a video obtained by NBC News appears to show.

The video shows two unexploded submunitions amid the rubble at the M10 hospital in rebel-held eastern Aleppo following a morning airstrike on Sept. 28. Several experts and sources independently identified the devices as Russian-made ShOAB 0.5 cluster submunitions, bomblets delivered by an air-delivered scattering device called the RBK-500. Both are known to be used by both the Russian and Syrian air forces.


Can ISIS Attacks Be Stopped? Public Security in Age of Madness


Part Five in a Series

NICE, France — Kinetic energy is calculated as an expression of mass and velocity.

According to statements by French prosecutors, the vehicle that drove for more than a mile along a thoroughfare crowded with pedestrians celebrating Bastille Day in Nice on July 14 was an 18-ton truck, driven at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.


One of the victims of the Nice truck attacker. ERIC GAILLARD / Reuters, file

From these sparse facts, rough mathematical calculations are simple. At its fastest, the truck was delivering kinetic energy of up to 12.6 megajoules — equivalent to 14 sticks of military-grade dynamite — to anyone in its path.

Eighty-six people killed. Two hundred injured. Ten children dead; thirty-four in intensive care.

One madman.

Horrors like the attack in Nice have become commonplace enough that we can make spreadsheets of shattered lives.

But is there anything we can actually do in the wake of such attacks, except tally up the dead?


Paris Attacks Inspire Huge Influx of Police Recruits


Part Four in a Series

PARIS — The police vehicles approached slowly, and the officers accompanying them were visibly tense.

The past three days had been a nightmare for French law enforcement. Two officers murdered on the street in cold blood. Nine staff from the provocative magazine Charlie Hebdo slaughtered in their offices, along with a visitor from out of town. Four people slain at a kosher supermarket.

Two sieges ending in a hail of bulletswith brothers who had sworn allegiance to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and their ISIS-inspired accomplice being killed following a coordinated set of attacks.

A video taken by a passerby showed the street packed tight with civilians, and the officers began clearing a path for the approaching vehicles. A few small cheers rang out. But as the police got closer, the entire crowd erupted in applause and shouts of encouragement.

The officers were clearly taken aback, exchanging glances as if unsure how to respond.

But the crowd's encouragement and enthusiasm were contagious, and many of the officers, replete in full riot gear, began to smile and thank their supporters.


With its long history of anti-establishmentarianism and a general lack of regard for authority figures, France has never really embraced police officers in the way that America often mythologizes the men and women of the thin blue line.

Cops here are widely known as "les flics" — the plural of "flic," a popular slang term for police of uncertain origin.

But on Jan. 12, 2015, it was "les flics" who had responded to the call, and come to the rescue.

The citizens of France loved them for it.



A Rare Glimpse Inside France's Anti-ISIS Unit


Part Two in a Series

NEAR DIJON, FRANCE — The assault team advanced in a line, stacked up behind the point man.

He was carrying a 60-pound shield capable of stopping rounds from a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle, equipped with a sophisticated infrared camera and viewscreen.

Behind him was a line of men with weapons at the ready, raindrops glistening on the barrels of their customized assault rifles.

Despite their heavy body armor, the officers were taking no risks. Lining up behind the shield allowed the team to expose as little of themselves as possible: a bulletproof python bristling with automatic weapons, lights and sensors.


Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/europes-terror-battle/france-s-elite-gign-evolves-alongside-threat-isis-n630866

'Brexit' Vote: Why Britain Could Quit E.U. and Why America Cares

by Mac William Bishop and Alastair Jamieson

Britain will vote on whether to leave the European Union in a national referendum on June 23 that could have profound implications for the U.S. Here's what you need to know.

Why is this happening now?

British Prime Minister David Cameron is fulfilling a promise to negotiate a better deal for his country in the European Union and to put the new terms to a national vote. It was an act of pre-election political expediency — a way to unite the two sides of his Conservative party which has been bitterly divided over the issue of Europe.


Is Iowa Really Giving Handguns to Children?

by Mac William Bishop and Kristen Dahlgren

DES MOINES, Iowa — "We do not need a militia of toddlers."

Those were the words of Iowa State Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, on the floor of the legislature in Des Moines last week.

She was responding to proposed changes to state gun laws that currently restrict children under the age of 14 from using handguns.

The reaction to the changes — which would allow children of all ages to handle deadly weapons with adult supervision — was intense and immediate, as Iowa entered the national debate over gun control last week, with supporters championing the new law as a common-sense measure that would encourage safe handling of firearms.

"This is not about giving our children the combo to the gun safe," said Brian Hood, head coach of the Central Iowa Scholastic Shooters, a youth sport-shooting league. "This is about allowing them in a supervised scenario, to learn a great sport."


Sweden Sees Shift Away From Cash

STOCKHOLM — No cash? No problem — in Sweden at least, where cellphone and credit-card payments are quickly eclipsing coins and bills.

When Robin Teigland left her wallet at home, the man in line behind her agreed to pay for her groceries. His gesture as much out of convenience as kindness — Teigland paid him back immediately via Swish, a mobile-banking app gaining traction throughout Scandinavia.

"Sweden has always been at the forefront of financial innovation," said Teigland, a professor of business at the Stockholm School of Economics. "I never use cash. My kids laugh at me, because I only carry the five-crown coins I use to get a shopping cart at the store."

Teigland isn't alone — cash now makes up just 2 percent of the Swedish economy, compared to 9.7 percent throughout the euro zone, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

Read More....

Missionary killed in Al Qaeda attack in Burkina Faso

On January 16th, an American missionary was among nearly two dozen victims killed by Al Qaeda-linked militants in an attack on a luxury hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso.

At least 28 people were killed and 126 others were held hostage for hours by at least four militants in Ouagadougou, officials said.

The American missionary's body was identified by his wife on Saturday, according to family members that I spoke to that day. Mike Riddering, 45, worked with his wife Amy at Les Ailes de Refuge orphanage in Yako, a town about 100 kilometers northwest of the Ouagadougou.

Paris Attacks: Abdelhamid Abaaoud's Photos Offer Glimpse of ISIS Life

December 23rd, 2015


ISTANBUL — Videos and photographs belonging to the ringleader behind theParis terror attacks offer a glimpse of his life as a "gore hero" on ISIS' front lines.

Anti-ISIS activists told NBC News they obtained the files from Belgian-born Abdelhamid Abaaoud's cellphone in northern Syria in early 2014...


The Priest Who Came Out of the Closet

I spoke to Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa recently in Barcelona, where he now lives with his boyfriend. He had not yet been defrocked, but was expecting the axe to drop at any moment, and was meeting his fate with composure.

I have rarely spoken to anyone who so clearly articulated a vision of religion grounded in rationality, compassion and tolerance. Whatever else Charamsa may be, he is a man who has fully considered his identity, his reasoning and his actions.

On Wednesday, the Roman Catholic Church asked him to leave its priesthood.


Video Purports to Show Anti-ISIS Raid That Killed American

by Richard Engel, Elizabeth Chuck and Mac William Bishop

A new video purports to show Thursday's raid in Iraq in which dozens of ISIS hostages were freed and an American commando was killed.

The video, exclusively obtained by NBC News from Jordan-based news outlet Arab24, was apparently taken on helmet cameras at a prison near the northern town of Hawija. Arab24 said it received the video from Kurdish military officials.

U.S. and Kurdish commandos stormed the prison in a pre-dawn, joint rescue mission after a tip that hostages there were about to be slaughtered. Oklahoma native Delta Force commando Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed in the ensuing firefight, marking the first time an American has died in combat operations against ISIS.