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Unread 03-25-2015, 10:02 PM
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World events

Fall of Yemen government leaves US with few options

The Associated Press
Published: March 25, 2015

WASHINGTON — The hasty maritime departure of Yemen's US.-backed president on Wednesday illustrated how completely one of the most important American counterterrorism efforts has disintegrated, leaving the country wide open for what could be a deeply destabilizing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Driven weeks ago from the capital by Shiite rebels, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi abandoned the country, leaving on a boat from the southern port of Aden, Yemeni security officials said. His departure came after air strikes rained down on his troops, a sign that rebels held air superiority and that Hadi's calls for an international no-fly zone had been disregarded. On the ground, the rebels were advancing toward his position.

Three years ago, American officials hailed Hadi's ascension to power in a U.S.-brokered deal that ended the longtime rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh during the political upheaval of the Arab Spring. And just a few months ago, President Barack Obama was still calling Yemen a counterterrorism success story, even as the CIA warned that Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were growing restive in the north of the country.

Now, U.S. officials acknowledge their efforts against Yemen's dangerous al-Qaida affiliate are seriously hampered, with the American embassy closed and the last U.S. troops evacuated from the country over the weekend. Although the Houthis have seized control of much of the country and are avowed enemies of al-Qaida, they can't project power against the militants the way the Hadi government could with American support, officials say. Deeply anti-American, the Houthis have rejected U.S. overtures, officials say.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is considered the terror group most dangerous to the U.S. because it successfully placed three bombs on U.S. bound airlines, although none exploded. The chaos in Yemen will give the group breathing space, American officials acknowledge.
Beyond terrorism, the latest developments in Yemen have worrisome implications for a Middle East already wracked by Sunni-Shia conflict, experts say. Sunni power Saudi Arabia bolstered its troop presence Wednesday along its border with Yemen. Although Pentagon officials said there was no sign of an imminent invasion, Saudi officials are deeply disturbed by the rise of the Shiite Houthis.
Meanwhile, the Houthis are widely seen as having links to Iran, and while those ties are not explicit as the Iranian relationship with Hezbollah in Lebanon or Shiite militias in Iraq, the U.S. government has said publicly that Iran has provided the Houthis with weapons and other support.

"This is all about Sunni vs. Shia, Saudi vs. Iran," said Michael Lewis, professor at Ohio Northern University College of Law and a former Navy fighter pilot who watches Yemen closely. The U.S., he said, "can't be a disinterested observer. Nobody's going to buy that. What we needed to do was pick a side."

But the U.S. had made no move to protect the Hadi government as the Houthis advanced, and American officials gave no indication Wednesday that their stance of neutrality had changed. Asked whether the U.S. military had considered trying to rescue Hadi, a senior American official who declined to be quoted answered: "The tinder box in Yemen is most complicated because of the geopolitics at stake. The U.S., Saudis, Iranians, Houthis, Yemenis, AQAP, ISIL, and AQ have equities in the situation and factor into any decision the U.S. makes or doesn't make."

In the past, American officials had stressed that their only military goal in Yemen was in defeating al-Qaida, and that they would not get involved in a Yemeni civil war.

"Our policy was, `the Houthis, that's an internal problem, we're not involved. We're interested in AQ,'" said Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, referring to al-Qaida.

"The tragedy is that unlike Syria, which never looked like it was going to come out well, Yemen was doing very well on the transition and they could have pulled this thing out," she said. "The Yemenis have responsibility for a lot of this, but we weren't seen as really invested in the governance and economic issues that drove the Arab Spring revolution in the first place."

As late as Monday, officials insisted the U.S. was still working with Hadi's government, despite the fact that the president had been forced out of the capital and the parliament dissolved.

"There continues to be ongoing security cooperation between the United States and the national security infrastructure of the Hadi government," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor and Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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Unread 03-25-2015, 10:51 PM
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Yemen’s president flees home by sea as Shiite rebels draw close, offer $100K bounty for his capture

Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 12:12 PM

Tanks seized recently by Southern People's Resistance militants loyal to Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are seen at the al-Anad air base in the south of the country. The rebel group has reportedly "secured" the base.

SANAA, Yemen — Yemen's embattled president fled his palace in Aden on a boat headed to an undisclosed location Wednesday as Shiite rebels offered cash bounty for his capture and arrested his defense minister.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi left just hours after the rebels' own television station said they seized an air base where U.S. troops and Europeans advised the country in its fight against Al Qaeda militants. That air base is only 35 miles away from Aden, the port city where Hadi had established a temporary capital.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to brief journalists. Witnesses said they saw a convoy of presidential vehicles Wednesday leaving Hadi's palace, located at the top of a hill in Aden overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Presidential officials said Hadi was in an operations room overseeing his forces' response. They declined to say where that facility was located.

Authorities also say Shiite rebels have arrested Yemen's defense minister.

The advance of the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, threatens to plunge the Arab world's poorest country into a civil war that could draw in its Gulf neighbors. Already, Hadi has asked the United Nations to authorize a foreign military intervention in the country.

Yemen's state television broadcaster, controlled by Houthis, made an offer of some $100,000 for Hadi's capture. Officials meanwhile said that the country's Defense Minister Maj.-Gen. Mahmoud al-Subaihi and his top aide were arrested in the southern city of Lahj, where fighting with Houthi forces was ongoing, before they were transferred to Sanaa.

Already, military officials said militias and military units loyal to Hadi had "fragmented," speeding the rebel advance. They said the rebels were fighting Hadi's allied forces on five different fronts Wednesday.

Mohammed Abdel-Salam, a spokesman for the Houthis, said that their forces were not aiming to "occupy" the south.

"They will be in Aden in few hours," Abdel-Salam told the Houthis' satellite Al-Masirah news channel.

Early Wednesday, Al-Masirah reported that the Houthis and allied fighters had "secured" the al-Annad air base, the country's largest. It claimed the base had been looted by both Al Qaeda fighters and troops loyal to Hadi.

The reported Houthi takeover of the base took place after hours-long clashes between rival forces around the base. The U.S. recently evacuated some 100 soldiers, including Special Forces commandos, from the base after Al Qaeda briefly seized a nearby city. Britain also evacuated soldiers.

The base was crucial in the U.S. drone campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which America considers to be the most dangerous branch of the terror group. American and European military advisers there also offered logistical in its fight against the Al Qaeda group, which holds territory in eastern Yemen and has claimed directed the recent attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

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Unread 03-25-2015, 11:25 PM
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Airstrikes commence in Tikrit, Iraq

By Dana Ford, CNN
Updated 6:00 PM ET, Wed March 25, 2015
Sunni fighter: Tikrit will be ISIS' graveyard 02:38

(CNN)Airstrikes started Wednesday in Tikrit, where Iraqi and coalition forces are battling to wrest control from ISIS.

"These strikes are intended to destroy ISIL strongholds with precision, thereby saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimizing collateral damage to infrastructure," said Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commanding general of the international coalition, led by the United States.

"This will further enable Iraqi forces under Iraqi command to maneuver and defeat ISIL in the vicinity of Tikrit," he said, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.

At the request of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the coalition is providing "airstrikes, airborne intelligence capabilities, and advise and assist support to Iraqi Security Force headquarters elements," it said.

According to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the first wave of airstrikes was intended to hit about a dozen preplanned targets.
Tikrit, best known to Westerners as the birthplace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, fell in June to ISIS, which has captured large areas of Iraq and Syria for what it says is its Islamic caliphate.

On March 1, al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces to retake Tikrit and Salaheddin province.

There have been several failed attempts to recapture Tikrit since the second half of 2014. If Iraq regains control of the city, it could mean that retaking Mosul -- a city 10 times bigger -- is possible.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
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Unread 03-26-2015, 12:42 AM
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Tulsa under tornado warning

By Dana Ford, CNN
Updated 7:32 PM ET, Wed March 25, 2015

Tornado touches down near Tulsa, Oklahoma 02:02
(CNN)The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday.
A confirmed, "extremely dangerous" tornado was spotted near Sand Springs, moving east at 45 mph, the weather service said.
A mobile home park southwest of that town was "hit very hard," said Chief Daniel Bradley of the Sand Springs Fire Department. His office was told 24 homes were damaged, some rolled over. Ambulances were en route.
The tornado warning includes downtown Tulsa.
"Take cover in a basement or storm shelter now!" the weather service advised those in the storm's path.
Large, damaging hail the size of baseballs and hurricane-force winds are possible.
A severe thunderstorm watch was in effect for the area until late Wednesday night.
CNN's Sean Morris and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.
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Unread 03-26-2015, 01:31 AM
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Re: ARIES, LIBRA, CAPRICORN transit this week is a War Aspect for all to be aware of

Saturn Retrograde Correction

Dow tumbles 292 points as economy shows cracks

Wall Street is no longer cheering bad economic news.
The Dow dropped 292 points and the S&P 500 declined almost 1.5% after the latest in a long line of alarming economic reports.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq tumbled over 2.3% -- its biggest drop in nearly a year -- as investors worry that biotechs may be overvalued.

For weeks the stock market rallied because investors saw every economic speed bump as an indication the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates extremely low for longer and longer.

That annoying and somewhat perverse trend ended on Wednesday, at least temporarily.

"You're at a point now where you can no longer say bad news is good news. That's not working anymore. You've got to show some growth here," said Joe Saluzzi, co-head of trading at Themis Trading.

The growth jitters have knocked the stock market well below the levels it soared to last week after the Fed signaled a slow and steady approach to rate hikes...

Watch out for market correction, experts say

Michelle Fox | @MFoxCNBC
2 Hours Ago

The stock market tumbled Wednesday and two experts told CNBC they think it has further to fall, at least in the short term.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 292 points and theNasdaq saw its biggest decline in almost a year, dropping 118 points. The S&P 500 fell 30 points.

"We have earnings decelerating, we don't have any fundamental additional good news so that says to me the market should continue to go lower. I would look for that 5 or 10 [percent] correction in the spring, which we often have," Wells Fargo Advantage Funds portfolio manager Margie Patel said in an interview with "Closing Bell."

Wednesday's stock decline looked like end-of-quarter kind of action, said Jack Bouroudjian, chief investment officer of Index Financial Partners. However, he thinks the real question is what will happen at the beginning of the next quarter.

"One of the things that worries me is that we're entering a very difficult time for stocks," he told "Closing Bell."

Read MoreStocks plunge, but these pros aren't worried

Bouroudjian said he gets cautious in the first couple of weeks in April and the first couple of weeks of October.

"This is the time to put on protection and be careful and look for that 5 or 7 percent move. It could come very quickly," he noted.

That said, he thinks things are looking better for the second half of the year. For those who want to time the market, he would take advantage of the moves down, which are "wonderful gems of opportunity to put money to work."

"Fundamentally, things are still looking good. We still have a low interest rate environment. We still have low energy costs and guess what? In the second half of the year I think we're going to get some earnings surprises," Bouroudjian said.

There's a huge sentiment split building in market

He also thinks there will be a domestic and global pick up in energy demand and once that kicks in, there will be a reignition of the global growth story.
That "drives the stock market, not the U.S. economy and that's one of the reasons why you want to be buying dips," Bouroudjian said.

—Reuters contributed to this report.
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Unread 03-26-2015, 02:34 AM
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Saudi Arabia launches military operation in Yemen - envoy

Saudi Arabia has launched a military operation in Yemen against Houthi Shia rebels, the Saudi ambassador in the US has said.

Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia acted to "defend the legitimate government" of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The Iran-backed rebels have made rapid gains in recent months, forcing Mr Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa.

Meanwhile, reports say the rebels have seized secret US intelligence files describing US operations in Yemen.

The files reportedly contained informants' identities as well as counter-terrorism operation plans, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Regional escalation

Speaking in Washington, Mr Jubeir said the Saudi operation - which involved air strikes - began at 23:00 GMT.

He said Gulf states supported the operation.

Mr Jubeir stressed that the Saudis "will do anything necessary'' to protect the people of the neighbouring Yemen and "the legitimate government of Yemen".

This come despite sources in Saudi Arabia telling Reuters earlier on Wednesday that there were no plans for military intervention in the crisis, and that the reported build-up of military forces on its border with Yemen was "purely defensive".

Also on Wednesday, reports said that President Hadi fled his palace in Aden as Houthi rebels advanced towards the southern port city.

But Yemeni government officials denied suggestions that the president has fled the country, and said he remained in Aden.

Mr Hadi earlier asked the UN Security Council to back military action by "willing countries" against the Houthi rebels.

The president also called on the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and the Arab League to intervene.

Meanwhile, Yemen's state television, which is controlled by the rebels, announced a ransom for anyone who captures the "fugitive" president.

Recent developments have raised fears that Iran - who is Saudi Arabia's major regional rival - could be drawn into the conflict.

The Houthis: Zaidi Shia-led rebels from the north, who seized control of Sanaa last year and have since been expanding their control

President Hadi: Backed by military and police loyalists, and by militia known as Popular Resistance Committees, he is trying to fight back against the rebels from his stronghold in the south

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Seen by the US as the most dangerous offshoot of al-Qaeda, AQAP opposes both the Houthis and President Hadi.

Islamic State: A Yemeni affiliate of IS has recently emerged, which seeks to eclipse AQAP.
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Unread 03-26-2015, 03:00 AM
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USGS upgrades Aleutian volcano alert level

Megan Edge
March 25, 2015

Citing increased seismic intensity, the U.S. Geological Survey is upgrading the volcano alert level status for Semisopochnoi, an Aleutian Island volcano, to "advisory," the agency said in a notice issued Wednesday morning.

Seismic activity at the Semisopochnoi volcano began in January, but "has increased in intensity over the past few days," USGS wrote in the notice. "In addition, we have detected brief periods of seismic tremor, which can indicate movement of magma or magmatic gases."

Semisopochnoi is remote even by Alaska standards. It lies on an island of the same name some 127 miles from Adak and 1,283 miles from Anchorage.
The volcano last erupted in 1987.

AVO Puts Volcano Near Adak Back on Watch

By Annie Ropeik
Wednesday, March 25 2015

A volcanic island in the Western Aleutians is stirring again, after several months of quiet.

Semisopochnoi was put on an advisory alert level on Wednesday morning. It’s the first alert at the volcano since a seismic flare-up last June, which was its first activity in almost 30 years.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory says earthquake activity began at Semisopochnoi in January, and increased over the past few days. They also report new seismic tremors they say could indicate magma moving inside the volcano.

Semisopochnoi is about 130 miles west of Adak. It comprises several craters and cones within one large caldera, where the last major eruption was in 1987.

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Unread 03-26-2015, 06:28 PM
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US National Guardsman and His Cousin Arrested for Trying to Join ISIS, Authorities Say

Mar 26, 2015, 12:23 PM ET

The FBI has arrested two men -- one of them a current member of the Illinois National Guard -- for allegedly trying to join ISIS, the brutal terrorist group wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, authorities said.

Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds, 22, was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport as he was trying to fly to Egypt, according to authorities. His cousin, Jonas Edmonds, 29, was arrested at his home.
Both men are from Aurora, Illinois, and will be appearing in federal court later today.

Hasan Edmonds first came onto the FBI’s radar in late 2014 as he hatched a plan for Hasan Edmonds to join ISIS overseas while Jonas Edmonds launched an attack inside the United States, according to the Justice Department.
This comes a week after a former U.S. Air Force veteran was indicted by federal authorities for allegedly trying to join ISIS.

Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, 47, who is from New Jersey but had been living overseas for years, was secretly arrested two months ago after being deported back to the United States.

On his laptop, FBI agents allegedly discovered more than 180 jihadist propaganda videos and noticed he had been conducting online searches for such phrases as "borders controlled by Islamic state," "kobani border crossing," and "who controls kobani."

Last month, three New York City men were arrested on charges they allegedly conspired to join ISIS but also expressed willingness to carry out attacks on the terror group's behalf in the United States. The men had planned to travel to the Middle East and had also pledged to launch attacks in this country, including one on President Obama or planting a bomb in Coney Island, Brooklyn, federal officials said.

Over the past 18 months, about 30 people have been charged with joining terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq or trying to do so.

More than 15,000 structures without power after Oklahoma tornadoes

OKLAHOMA CITY Thu Mar 26, 2015 12:18pm EDT

(Reuters) - About 15,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma and Arkansas were without power on Thursday after tornadoes touched down in the states a day earlier, leaving at least one person dead and scores of structures damaged.

School were closed in parts of Oklahoma and clean up was underway from the twisters that hit Tulsa, Oklahoma City and northwest Arkansas.

In the Tulsa suburb of Sand Springs, one person was killed in a trailer park when a tornado ripped through the area. At least 60 buildings were damaged including a gymnastics studio with about 60 people inside that had its roof ripped off. No one was severely injured in that incident.

Another tornado was spotted in Moore, Oklahoma, where police said multiple buildings were damaged and vehicles overturned. The Oklahoma City suburb was hit by a tornado in 2013 that killed 24 and injured more than 300.
The Moore Public School District said that one elementary school had its roof torn off, and several nearby homes were struck.

Global stocks tumble, oil surges on Yemen air strikes

NEW YORK Thu Mar 26, 2015 11:19am EDT

(Reuters) - Stock markets around the world were knocked lower and oil prices jumped as much as 6 percent on Thursday after Saudi Arabia and its allies carried out air strikes in Yemen that also stung the dollar.

Key indexes on Wall Street, which had already been declining this week on fears U.S. economic growth may be slowing, were down as much as 1 percent in early trading, while the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc rose against the dollar.

The MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks shares in 45 countries, was last off 0.9 percent.

"The air strikes in Yemen have really created a risk-off mood," said Rabobank strategist Philip Marey.

Brent oil LCOc1 was last at $58 a barrel, up nearly 3 percent but off peaks hit of nearly $60. U.S. crude CLc1 was up 1.6 percent at $50 a barrel after reaching $52.48.

In the currency markets, the dollar fell against traditional safe havens the Swiss franc CHF=and the yen JPY= after warplanes from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries struck Shi'ite Muslim rebels fighting to oust Yemen's president, and bombed the airport at the capital Sanaa in a move seen as a bid to check Iranian influence in the region.

The dollar was also down against the euro EUR=RR but recovered in early New York trading on the view central bank policy was more favorable for the dollar. The euro was off 0.55 percent at $1.0911.

Iran denounced the attacks as the Saudi military also targeted the Iran-backed Houthi rebels besieging the southern Yemen city of Aden. Arab producers ship oil via the narrow Gulf of Aden before heading to the Suez Canal and Europe.

A vertiginous slide in oil prices, from more than $115 a barrel last June to a low of $45 in January, has been a major driver of financial markets in the past year and a key factor driving global interest rates down and stock markets up.

U.S. and European shares followed Asian stocks lower.
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Unread 03-27-2015, 12:59 AM
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Saudi-led coalition strikes rebels in Yemen, inflaming tensions in region

By Greg Botelho and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
Updated 6:47 PM ET, Thu March 26, 2015

(CNN)Saudi and allied warplanes struck rebels inYemen on Thursday, with Saudi Arabia threatening to send ground troops and inserting itself into its southern neighbor's civil war, potentially opening up a broader sectarian conflict in the Middle East.

The swift and sudden action involved 100 Saudi jets, 30 from the United Arab Emirates, 15 each from Kuwait and Bahrain, 10 from Qatar, and a handful from Jordan, Morocco and Sudan, plus naval help from Pakistan and Egypt, according to a Saudi adviser.

The Egyptian state news agency on Thursday quoted Egypt's Foreign Ministry as saying Egypt's support also could involve ground forces.

What do those countries have in common? They're all predominantly Sunni Muslim -- in contrast to the Houthi rebels, Shiite Muslims who have taken over Yemen's capital of Sanaa and on Wednesday captured parts of its second-largest city, Aden. The Saudis consider the Houthis proxies for the Shiite government of Iran and fear another Shiite-dominated state in the region.

"What they do not want is an Iranian-run state on their southern border," CNN military analyst Lt. Col. Rick Francona said of the Saudis.

The airstrikes did not include warplanes from the United States, which has worked with Yemeni governments -- including that of recently deposed but still battling President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi -- to go after al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, a senior official in President Barack Obama's administration said "there will be no military intervention by the U.S."

But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday did tell foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman that the United States commends the military action and is supporting it through intelligence sharing, targeting assistance and logistical support, according to a senior State Department official.

Yemen's President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi has arrived in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, officials say, as a Saudi-led coalition continues to launch air strikes against Shia Houthi rebels.

It is the first confirmation of his whereabouts since Wednesday, when he fled rebel forces in the city of Aden.

The officials say he will go to Egypt for an Arab league summit on Saturday.

The Saudi authorities began air strikes in Yemen on Wednesday night, a step Iran called "dangerous".

During the second night of raids warplanes again targeted rebel positions in Yemen's capital Sanaa and an air base near the southern port city of Aden.

Reports say there were civilian casualties.

Clashes were also reported in Aden between troops loyal to President Hadi and the rebels.

Saudi Arabia says it is "defending the legitimate government" of Mr Hadi.

Airstrikes on ISIS in Tikrit Prompt Boycott by Shiite Fighters

AL RASHID AIR BASE, Iraq — By Day 2 of the American airstrike campaign against militants holed up in Tikrit, the mission appeared beleaguered on several fronts on Thursday: Thousands of Shiite militiamen boycotted the fight in protest, others threatened to attack any Americans they found, and Iraqi officials said nine of their fighters had been accidentally killed in an airstrike.

In Washington, American military leaders insisted that things were going according to plan. They said that they were stepping into the Tikrit fight only after the Iranian- and militia-led advance on the city had stalled after three weeks, and that they welcomed working solely with Iraqi government forces.
Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of the United States Central Command, told a Senate hearing on Thursday that no Shiite militias remained in Tikrit.
While the withdrawal of Iranian-led Shiite militias was one of the preconditions for the Americans to join the fight against the Islamic State in Tikrit, the sudden departure of three of the major groups risked leaving the Iraqi ground forces short-handed, especially if other Shiite militiamen also abandoned the fight.

The three militia groups, some of which had Iranian advisers with them until recently, pulled out of the Tikrit fight to protest the American airstrikes, which began late on Wednesday night, insisting that the Americans were not needed to defeat the extremists in Tikrit.

Too great or abrupt a withdrawal by militia forces, analysts said, could complicate the entire Iraqi counteroffensive. Even with the militias involved, officials said the current pro-government force would not be large enough to eventually help take Mosul back from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Top officials at the Pentagon appeared to think that it would not be easy to retake even Tikrit without Iranian help. “It’s going to require the kind of hammer and anvil approach of ground forces forcing ISIL to respond in ways that they’re targetable by air power,” one Defense Department official said. “But we’re less than 24 hours into it.”

Another official, asked if he was worried that the United States now owned the Tikrit operation, said, “Yes. This was a calculated risk, but it’s one that had to be taken.” Both officials spoke on grounds of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

Together, the four Shiite groups that objected to the American air role already represent more than a third of the 30,000 fighters on the government side in the offensive against the Islamic State, analysts said.

“We don’t trust the American-led coalition in combating ISIS,” said Naeem al-Uboudi, the spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the three groups which said it would withdraw from the front line around Tikrit. “In the past they have targeted our security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake,” he said.

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Mexico's Colima Volcano Erupts Twice in One Morning

Published Mar 26 2015 01:20 PM EDT

A volcano in Colima, Mexico spewed giant plumes of smoke up more than six thousand feet into the sky. This video shows two of these eruptions on the same morning. A third eruption happened later in the day.

Mexico's Colima volcano gave quite a show this week, erupting two times in the same morning.
A webcam captured the pair of eruptions Monday. As you can see in the timelapse above, the eruptions weren't small; they created shock waves atop the mountain and sent hot ash cascading down its sides.

Volcano Discovery says Colima is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America and has the potential for danger, due to its high level of activity.
Although Colima has been erupting frequently this year, no lives or property were reported to be in danger yet.
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Unread 03-27-2015, 08:14 AM
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The U.S. Just Took Ownership of a New Iraq War

By taking over the stalled fight for Tikrit, the U.S. is assuming leadership of a widening war. The new one could be different from our last—but it’s likely to be just as open-ended.

Don’t hold your breath for a formal announcement, but the U.S. just declared ownership over the war in Iraq. The newest round of airstrikes take American military power out of a supporting role and into the lead.

Wednesday’s Pentagon statement that the U.S. would begin conducting airstrikes to support an Iraqi military campaign was a high water mark for intervention in Iraq. But the military mission has been expanding since airstrikes were first launched last August to protect small teams of U.S. advisers and Iraqi minorities besieged by ISIS. At first the air war responded to emergencies, then it grew to assisting Kurdish forces and striking key ISIS targets to weaken the group and halt its advance.

Now, with Iraqi forces stalled in their first major counterattack against ISIS, the U.S. is stepping in to break the stalemate.

“At the request of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Coalition today launched airstrikes in and around Tikrit in support of Iraqi Security Forces ground operations,” the Pentagon announced Wednesday in a press release. The purpose of the strikes: to destroy ISIS targets and enable “Iraqi forces under Iraqi command to continue offensive operations.”

Before Wednesday, the U.S. had been largely sitting out the battle, Iraq’s biggest anti-ISIS operation to date, because of the leading role played by Iranian backed militia forces and military advisers. At the start of the offensive, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey estimated that the balance of Iraq’s 24,000 forces included 20,000 “Iranian-trained and somewhat Iranian-equipped” Shia militiamen.

But as the militia-led effort bogged down last week, Baghdad asked for American assistance. The U.S. agreed—but with conditions.

The Shia militiamen “pulled back” east of the central Iraqi city of Tikrit once the U.S. began conducting airstrikes, Gen. Lloyd Austin, the U.S. Central Command commander, told Congress on Thursday.

“I will not—and I hope we will never—coordinate or cooperate with Shiite militias,” Austin said. “Preconditions for us to provide support were that the Iraqi government had to be in charge of this operation. We had to know exactly who was on the ground.”

In the past the U.S. has tacitly coordinated with militia forces. The result in the city of Amerli, where an ISIS siege was broken by a militia led ground offensive backed by U.S. airstrikes, was a military victory followed by sectarian violence. After liberating Amerli, Shia militias and security forces sacked surrounding Sunni towns, destroying villages and displacing thousands of civilians.

By asking for American help in an operation that had previously relied on Iranian planners and proxy forces, Iraq’s leaders sent a message. Either Baghdad wants the U.S. to counter Iranian influence or it has determined that Iran alone won’t cut it and American military power is needed. Or both. Whatever the reason, the outcome is that the U.S. has agreed to help, and by doing so it takes on public responsibility for the outcome. If Iraq can’t break the stalemate now, it’s an American defeat, as well. If Iraq liberates Tikrit under U.S. warplanes, and the sectarian militias really do sit the battle out, it’s an American victory.

And there could be many turns in the fighting to come. The Iranian-backed militias supposedly stepped back east of the Tigris River. But that region had long served as a staging area for fighters since the campaign began March 1. Austin also told lawmakers that Iranian forces and advisers—and presumably their weapons, tanks, and expertise—had also fled.

If that is true, the question now is whether Iran has been weakened or whether it has made a strategic retreat with the intent of reengaging after American airstrikes do the heavy lifting.

Moreover, it’s unclear whether all of those Shia militiamen really have indeed left the city. While several militias said Thursday that they were suspending their operations in Tikrit, there were also several unconfirmed local reports of rebels fighting in the city Thursday.

Austin said Thursday that 4,000 Iraqi security forces, special forces, and police were now on the ground in Tikri—far less than the 23,000 Iraqi militia and government forces previously attacking the city.

Militarily, there is little to suggest that the 4,000 Iraqi forces, even with U.S. airstrikes, can win back Tikit from ISIS, even though the group has less than a thousand fighters in the city.

And in similar previous campaigns, local forces have struggled to hold territory taken back from ISIS.

In the Syrian city of Kobani, for example, where as many as 5,000 Kurdish peshmerga fighters fought aggressively to keep the city out of ISIS hands, strikes have continued months after U.S. officials claimed the city fell out of ISIS hands. U.S. officials said the strikes now are focused 30 miles south and southeast of the city where ISIS fighters fled. And in Kobani, ISIS forces were seeking new terrain, not entrenched there for months, as they have been in Tikrit.

ISIS also retook the Iraqi city of Baiji just weeks after it was seized by Iraqi forces with the help of U.S.-led coalition air strikes.

Whatever the outcome of the fighting in Tikrit, the city is only a waypoint—the first battle of many more to come.

Compared to Tikrit, ISIS’s stronghold in Mosul is many times larger, full of civilians, and at a greater distance from the Iraqi army’s supply lines. If U.S. air power was needed to break ISIS in Tikrit, there’s no telling yet what could be called for when it’s time to take Mosul.

It’s too early to say where this Iraq war will lead, but glance backward and the direction appears clear: toward a larger and more expansive military commitment.

Twelve years after the invasion of Iraq and four more since the last American troops left, it’s our war again. It could be a different kind of war this time around. Instead of a massive occupying army, the current conflict could continue to rely on air power with only a small component of specialized ground forces. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the war will be any less open-ended than it was in the 10 years after President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

Saudi Ambassador to U.S. won't rule out building nukes
By Alexandra Jaffe, CNN
Updated 8:33 PM ET, Thu March 26, 2015

Washington (CNN)The Saudi Ambassador to the United States would not rule out the possibility of the Saudis creating their own nuclear bomb to counterbalance a nuclear-armed Iran in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday.

"This is not something we would discuss publicly," Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir said on "The Situation Room." Later, when pressed, he said, "This is not something that I can comment on, nor would I comment on."

"But the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will take whatever measures are necessary in order to protect its security," he added. "There are two things over which we do not negotiate: Our faith and our security."

Al-Jubeir said, however, the details disclosed by the Obama administration to the Saudis about the developing nuclear deal with Iran were "positive."

"I can't say that we like it, because we don't know the details," he said. "The assurances we have received from the administration have been positive but we want to see the details before we can make a judgment."

The Saudi ambassador said other countries in the Middle East are "concerned" about Iran potentially gaining nuclear weapons, but that the Obama administration has assured them "all paths leading to a nuclear weapon by Iran will be cut off" and there will be "very intrusive inspections" that will prevent such an outcome.

The Saudis, supported by allied forces, launched an air campaign on Thursday against rebel forces in Yemen that Saudis see as aligned with Iran. In an implicit reference to that conflict, which is rapidly escalating into what some see as a proxy war between the Saudis and Iran, Al-Jubeir said his nation is concerned about Iran's "interference in the affairs of other countries in the region."

"We believe Iran's behavior ... is not reassuring to people in the region," he said.

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5.0 magnitude earthquake 128 km from Mati, Davao Oriental, Philippines
about an hour ago
UTC time: Thursday, March 26, 2015 16:46 PM
Your time: Thursday, March 26 2015 9:46 AM
Magnitude Type: mb
USGS page: M 5.0 - 74km SE of Pondaguitan, Philippines
USGS status: Reviewed by a seismologist
Reports from the public: 0 people

5.5 magnitude earthquake
about 3 hours ago
UTC time: Friday, March 27, 2015 03:04 AM
Your time: Thursday, March 26 2015 8:04 PM
Magnitude Type: mwp
USGS page: M 5.5 - 214km ESE of Iwaki, Japan
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US acting out of character, yuckie weird like "Fargo"
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Pentagon drops grisly anti-ISIS cartoons in Syria
By Associated Press
March 27, 2015 | 6:52am

WASHINGTON — The United States military dropped 60,000 copies of a graphic leaflet near the northern Syrian city of Raqqa that depict potential Islamic State recruits being fed into a meat grinder.

The leaflets, part of an information campaign to discourage people from joining the extremist group, were dropped in a canister by an F-15 fighter jet last week.

“”The message of this leaflet is, if you allow yourself to be recruited by Daesh, you will find yourself in a meat grinder. And it’s not beneficial to your health,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman who released a copy of the leaflet Thursday in response to media requests. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

The gruesome drawing shows seven young men standing in a line under a sign that says Daesh Recruiting Office.

A man with a monster face is beckoning the first man in line, who has a frightened look on his face. A second man is turning the grinder while appearing to push someone into the feeder tube. Two legs are protruding from the feeder, and blood is spurting out the grinder’s other end. The meat grinder is labeled as Daesh, and a sign in the corner says “Now serving 6001.” The scared young man appears to be dropping a ticket that says “6001.”

Warren said this is the only leaflet he knows about.

U.S. military officials have expressed concerns that IS was winning the propaganda war, with its use of social media to attract supporters and recruits. A central theme that U.S. officials have tried to convey is the militants’ brutality and violence, including to women and children.

IS has taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria. But the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East said Thursday that the group is “in a defensive crouch” in Iraq, and losing some momentum in Syria. The U.S. and other coalition members have conducted airstrikes on the group in Iraq and Syria.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A First Coast mother fears for her life and that of her family after finding out her husband was named in a "hit list" reportedly distributed by supporters of ISIS, the terror group spreading death and bloodshed overseas.

After the list surfaced online, Karen (Editor's note: we have changed her name to protect her identity) was shocked to discover her family was being directly targeted. But that hardest part came after when she reached out for help and got almost nothing in response. When her husband called with the news, she broke into tears.

"I cried almost the entire day. I didn't know what to do," she said.

The list, which was posted online and reported over the weekend, includes the identities of 100 pilots, airmen, sailors and commanders involved in the U.S.-led airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria.

The thought of it chills Karen, whose husband was part of an air crew that carried out bombing attack in the Middle East. That's why she fears the terror group is out for revenge.

Since then, she's gotten even more upset. Her biggest concern lies with the safety of her youngest child, who's under the supervision of a local sheriff's deputy at school. But that doesn't provide much solace, given the looming threat.

"As I told the FBI, they have no problem slicing children's throats and the report states they want us to be stabbed to death," she said.

She says she's "incensed that the federal government isn't doing more to protect her. She wants to be relocated, possibly to a military base or somewhere else safe. But her pleas for protection have gone ignored: she says three calls she's placed to military officials haven't been returned. In the meantime, she's been staying with a friend.

"I think it's unfair that my husband served and protected others' lives and put his life on the line, and we're told, 'Go back to your house, there's no threat to you. ... Just go about business as usual. We're really not here to help you," she said.

Instead, Karen says, she's been told to get rid of her presence on social media, namely Facebook, which the Department of Defense says much of the information could have been taken from.

"We just take our social media down and roll the dice."

She says it's totally unacceptable to gamble with hers or her children's lives.

From Tallahassee to Washington, D.C, First Coast lawmakers say any threat against military needs to be taken seriously from local law enforcement to the FBI. That reaction after concerns of an ISIS hit list urging sympathizers to attack military, some here on the First Coast.

"When you have direct threats against people from terrorist organization, it's as serious as it gets," said Congressman Ron DeSantis.

In a statement to First Coast News, a spokesperson for the local field office of the FBI says they take any threat seriously and are looking into it with military leaders and other law enforcement.

Congresswoman Corrine Brown is one of several lawmakers that says more needs to be done. A spokesperson says Brown has been in contact with the Department of Defense and the House Committee on Armed Services, urging them to do everything they can to protect the soldiers.

DeSantis says any fears of families on the list need to be addressed right away.

"Certainly those folks who've been targeted deserve some response," he said. "Imagine your family, kids, and address showing up, and you have a jihadist group saying someone need to snuff the family out," he added.

In a statement from Congressman Ander Crenshaw, he says:

"My top concern is for the safety and security of our military and their families. I am in constant contact with Department of Defense officials who regularly brief me about the measures being taken to deal with this threat. Those on the ISIS 'hit-list' have put their lives on the line to safeguard our country and our freedoms. I fully expect they and their families will receive all necessary protections from top law enforcement and military personnel."

Families of service members on the ISIS hit list keep asking one big question: Who is going to keep them safe?

Many law enforcement agencies here on the First Coast, and around the country, say if they're doing anything, it's assisting federal law enforcement and stepping up patrols.

We asked candidates for Jacksonville Sheriff how they think the threat should be handled:

"I think as the local law enforcement top cop it's our responsibility to make sure our citizens are protected," said Democrat Ken Jefferson. "They're on a list or a hit list and a threat has been made against them or their family members. I think it becomes our responsibility to do our due diligence within our means to protect these families."

"When we get a direct threat against a member of our military I think it's important for us to weigh in and coordinate to do all the things necessary to protect that family," said Republican Mike Williams.

We know the list impacted 3 First Coast counties when service members from those counties were included among the 100 people targeted by the list.

We asked Jacksonville Mayoral candidates how they think the threat should be handled:

"We need to make sure the men and woman who wear the uniform of the United States are safe," said Republican Lenny Curry. "As Mayor, I'm committed to making sure every person, every family, every neighborhood is safe that we protect them against all threats both local and foreign."

"At the local level, working with our emergency management team, working with the local FBI office and working with JSO I think we're going to be ready," said Democrat Alvin Brown. "The key is making sure we're working with all the right steak holders."

On the First Coast, federal law enforcement officials have visited families impacted by the list.
Local departments say they're supporting the effort but won't release exactly how in order to keep the security plan effective.

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Pictures | Fri Mar 27, 2015 10:05am EDT
Sleeping volcano awakens

Smoke and lava spew from the Villarrica volcano, as seen from Pucon town in the south of Santiago March 27, 2015. The Villarrica Volcano expelled smoke as scientists warn the concentration of lava, contained within the structure, is close to the crater. REUTERS/Cristobal Saavedra
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Bombing, gun attack at Mogadishu hotel kills at least 6

By Omar Nor and Jason Hanna, CNN
Updated 12:07 PM ET, Fri March 27, 2015

(CNN)Gunmen raided a hotel in Somalia's capital after detonating a car bomb outside the building Friday, killing at least six people and sparking a gun battle with security forces, a police officer at the scene said.

Security forces and the assailants still were exchanging gunfire at the Makka Al Mukarama hotel in Mogadishu early Friday evening, police Capt. Ahmed Abdi said.

The attack started when a car bomb exploded at the hotel's entrance, according to witness Aden Hussein, who said he was meters away from the hotel when the blast happened.

Gunmen then went inside the hotel, spraying people with bullets, Hussein said.

One of the attackers, wearing a belt with explosives, blew himself up inside the hotel, causing an undetermined number of casualties, Abdi said.

The hotel, which is along a highway leading to the country's presidential palace, is popular with lawmakers, journalists and business people.

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In Yemen, the Middle East’s cold war could get hot

By Yochi Dreazen March 27 at 3:37 PM
Saudi Arabia has sent its warplanes roaring into Yemen to hammer an Iranian-backed Shiite militia. In Iraq, forces armed and trained by Iran have been battling a Sunni militia that has drawn both fighters and money from Saudi Arabia. And thousands of miles away, the Obama administration is grappling with a new crisis: The Middle East’s longest-running cold war may be about to turn hot.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Islamic world’s leading Sunni power and its leading Shiite one, have spent decades quietly funneling weapons and money to allied forces throughout the region in an attempt to build up their own influence at each other’s expense. They have jousted in the shadows, allowing proxies to do the fighting and dying. But Riyadh’s push into Yemen exposes that conflict to the entire world — and could lead to open combat between the two nations.

Saudi Arabia was Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s patron, and his ouster by Houthi rebels set in motion events that now have Saudi forces directly battling Iranian-backed ones. Reports from the region suggest that Saudi planes are going out of their way to hit known Iranian targets inside Yemen, including ports that Iran is believed to be using to store and ship weapons. Those strikes could easily result in Iranian fatalities at Saudi hands.

Iranian and Saudi proxies are already at war across the Middle East. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close Iranian ally, has received money and weapons from Tehran, which has also dispatched intelligence operatives and combat-hardened fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia to Assad’s aid. Meanwhile, Riyadh has funneled weapons, money and supplies to the loose-knit alliance of rebels fighting to unseat him. The outside support keeps the country’s brutal civil war chugging along, with hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced, ancient cities such as Aleppo largely obliterated and neither side closer to a final victory.

Elsewhere, Bahrain’s government believes that Iran is fomenting unrest among the country’s Shiite majority in an attempt to force regime change in the oil-rich Sunni monarchy. Saudi Arabia deployed troops there in 2011 to help quell a Shiite uprising.

Wealthy Saudi Arabia has a military bristling with high-tech, American-made weapons. But regional diplomats say Saudi leaders worry that they are losing the long and bitter rivalry with Tehran. They look across their northern border with Iraq and see a Shiite government so closely linked to Iran that it is depending on the Islamic republic’s weapons, fighters and support to help defeat the Islamic State. The Saudis look across their southern border with Yemen and see a nation under the control of Iran-allied insurgents.
The Saudis are even more spooked by the Obama administration’s nuclear talks with Iran, which they — like Israel and the other Persian Gulf monarchies — believe to be a historic mistake that will leave Iran’s nuclear program largely intact and its economy unshackled by Western sanctions. Privately, Saudi officials make little attempt to hide their disdain for President Obama, whom they deride as naive and indecisive.

Publicly, the kingdom hints that it may seek its own nuclear bomb to counter a nuclear-armed Iran. Pressed about the country’s possible nuclear plans on CNN on Thursday, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, said that “the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will take whatever measures are necessary in order to protect its security.” Jubeir also blasted Tehran for its “interference . . . in the affairs of other countries in the region, whether it’s Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and other parts.”

Against that backdrop of fear and violence, Saudi Arabia has assembled a broad coalition of Sunni Arab powers for what could be a sustained and expansive campaign against Yemen’s Houthis and, by extension, Iran.Cairo has sent warships to the Gulf of Aden, and Egypt’s leaders may send ground troops as well. Jordan and virtually all of Saudi Arabia’s neighbors have joined the operation, and even Sudan has promised ground forces. Yemen’s ousted leader, meanwhile, has taken refuge in Riyadh after ignominiously fleeing his country by boat as Houthis closed in on the port city he’d called home after being pushed out of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital.

Iran has stayed mostly quiet since the start of what Saudi Arabia has grandiosely named Operation Storm of Resolve, but Tehran — which denies supporting the Houthis — let the mask slip a little during a speech last month by President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani, who is heavily invested in the nuclear talks, said his country was helping the rebels as part of a broader push to beat back a rising tide of Sunni extremists such as the Islamic State. “You can see that the power that was able to help the people of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen against terrorist group[s] is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.

As the fighting intensifies, Iran and Saudi Arabia have at least one bit of common ground: shared antipathy toward al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, which is widely seen as the most dangerous terrorist group in the world because of its bombmaking expertise and its ability to get operatives into the West. (The group attempted to down a U.S. airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009 and claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.)

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has targeted both Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthis. In October, an AQAP suicide bomber killed at least 42 people at a Houthi rally in Sanaa. In December, the group killed dozens more in a string of suicide attacks. It has released audio recordings promising to step up its fight against the “apostate” Houthis.
Saudi leaders, meanwhile, have a deeply personal reason to battle the group: In the summer of 2009, an AQAP operative detonated a bomb during a meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, then the kingdom’s deputy interior minister. The blast sheared the bomber in half but failed to kill Mohammed, who is now the country’s interior minister and deputy crown prince.

Nevertheless, the cliche about the enemy of your enemy being your friend isn’t true with rivals that hate each other as much Saudi Arabia and Iran do. The two nations may be willing to do their part in the fight against AQAP, but that is likely to be the only good news out of Yemen for quite some time.

World | Fri Mar 27, 2015 11:14pm IST

Saudi Arabia's Yemen gamble may define its regional role for years

(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's campaign to stop the Houthis from ruling over Yemen could define its role in the Middle East for years and shape its regional struggle with the rebels' ally Iran.

Success would establish Riyadh as de facto leader of the region's Sunni states it has pulled together in a complex armed operation, and embolden it to pursue a more assertive stance against what it sees as the expansionist ambitions of its arch rival Shi'ite Iran in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain.

But failure could hamper Riyadh's ability to persuade allies and neighbours to join it in future ventures and deal a public setback to its new monarch King Salman as well as other senior princes early in his reign.

"This campaign has confirmed that Saudi Arabia is the heavyweight power in the region. But they've taken a risk," said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist from the United Arab Emirates.

"If this thing fails, Iran is going to be much more emboldened and in this region there's usually a zero-sum game between Tehran and Riyadh. This is a test for the new king and Saudi Arabia," said Abdulla.

Riyadh wants to reinstate some stability and its own influence in Yemen by ensuring President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is strong enough to force his opponents to negotiate.

Yemen: Saudi Arabia airstrikes terrify residents, turn Sanaa into ghost town

Hakim Almasmari, CNN
Updated 2:06 PM ET, Fri March 27, 2015
Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) Sanaa, the bustling capital of Yemen, has turned into a ghost town. Hundreds of shops are closed, and the once-crowded pavements are empty.

On Thursday morning, nearly every house in the city shook -- the beginning of Operation "Decisive Storm" announced with a massive explosion that sounded very close, regardless of where you live in the capital.

Saudi Arabia has launched airstrikes on Houthi positions across Yemen, hoping to wipe out the Iranian-allied rebel group that has overthrown the government and seized power in recent days.

Thousands have fled Sanaa, but those who remained are stocking up on canned goods and food, fearing that the Saudi-led operation will take longer than expected.

Mohammed Hashim, an accountant who has lived in Sanaa for 20 years, evacuated his family from the area as the bombs began to fall.

"I am alone at home now, but my family is safe," he told CNN. "They were not just worried about being killed by the airstrikes -- the explosions at night are nonstop and very worrying. I want to leave Sanaa as well, but I need to feed my children."

The explosions are almost nonstop here -- every minute during the day, and every couple of seconds by nightfall.

The new best location for sleeping is under the staircase, the best way to safeguard your family from an airstrike.

Thousands of families have headed to rural areas in the hopes that Saudi airstrikes won't reach them there. Those who are too poor to relocate can only pray for safety.

Schools have been closed down, but there are no children in the streets. Electricity blackouts last as long as 10 hours a day, and residents worry that worse is ahead.

Over the last two days, hundreds of Saudi airstrikes targeted the Houthi-controlled missile brigade located in the outskirts of Sanaa in an effort to destroy the missile storage sites there, according to two Houthi military commanders.

The second night of airstrikes was more Saada then Sanaa. 15 locations in the province, home to Houthi supreme leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, were hit.

After spending months ascending to power in Yemen, the Houthis are now surrounded by a Saudi blockade of land borders, ports and airports that has cut off any hopes of reinforcements.

Tens of thousands of pro-Houthi protesters gathered in Sanaa on Friday to call for jihad against the Saudis. They want Houthi boots on the ground in Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the strikes, and vowed to join in the battle against their neighbors to the north.

Al-Houthi condemned the Saudi operation but said that Yemenis would not stay quiet for long. Speaking live Thursday night on al-Masirah TV, he said: "If any army try to invade our country, we will prove that Yemen will be a grave for those who invade us."

The Houthis have ordered the closure of media outlets opposed to them. Rebels raided Al Jazeera's office in Sanaa and the Suhail and Yemen Shaban channels have gone dark. The prominent Al Masdar newspaper has been shuttered, and more than a dozen news sites -- including the mouthpiece of Yemen's powerful Sunni Islah party -- have met the same fate.

These moves are retaliation for the closing of Houthi-controlled media channels by deposed Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who has fled the country.

No one knows for sure how long the Saudi assault on Yemen will last -- but Mohammed Hashim knows who to blame for the current crisis:

"Instead of reaching a political deal, Yemeni political parties are now watching the collapse of Yemen," Hashim says. "There is still hope, there still is. But political leaders need to wake up and save Yemen before it's too late."
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World | Fri Mar 27, 2015 11:18pm GMT

Yemen Houthi rebels advance despite Saudi-led air strikes


(Reuters) - Yemen's Houthi rebels made broad gains in the country's south and east on Friday despite a second day of Saudi-led air strikes meant to check the Iranian-backed militia's efforts to overthrow President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters and allied army units gained their first foothold on Yemen's Arabian Sea coast by seizing the port of Shaqra 100km (60 miles) east of Aden, residents told Reuters.

Explosions and crackles of small gunfire rang out across Aden late on Friday as Houthis made a push on the southern port city's airport, a witness said.

The advances threaten Hadi's last refuge in Yemen and potentially undermine the air campaign to support him.

Saudi-Led Coalition Takes Control of Yemen Airspace
A Saudi Arabia-led coalition took full control of Yemeni airspace after two days of airstrikes targeting Houthi rebels


HAKIM ALMASMARI in San’a, Yemen, and
ASA FITCH in Dubai
Updated March 27, 2015 3:00 p.m. ET

The U.S. military is preparing to expand its aid to Saudi Arabia in its air campaign against rebel forces in Yemen by providing more intelligence, bombs and aerial refueling missions for planes carrying out airstrikes there, American officials said Friday.

The development comes as the Saudi Arabia-led coalition took full control of Yemeni airspace after two days of airstrikes targeting the Houthi rebels, who have seized control of the country’s capital and government, a Saudi Defense Ministry official said.

The Saudis said they didn’t plan to deploy ground troops but were coordinating with forces in Yemen who support returning to power the country’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is backed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

The campaign, dubbed “Decisive Storm,” has raised fears that Yemen’s internal conflict could devolve into a regional battle for supremacy, pitting predominantly Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia against Shiite Iran and its allies, which support the Shiite-linked Houthis.

While Iranian leaders including President Hasan Rouhani have condemned the intervention, top Sunni clerics from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon on Friday added their voices to support the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shiite group Hezbollah in Lebanon, said in a speech Friday that Saudi Arabia had held sway in Yemen for decades and treated Yemenis “with disrespect.” Condemning the “Saudi-American attack,” he said: “It is the right of Yemen’s people, who are brave and resilient, to fight and resist, and they will succeed.”

Saudi officials have asked the U.S. to provide air tankers to refuel planes taking part in bombing Houthi forces in neighboring Yemen—and for more American-made bombs to continue with the strikes, the officials said. The U.S. is preparing to provide the Saudis with more help once the requests are approved in Washington, these people said.

The Saudi appeals come as the U.S. is deepening its support for the fight by providing military planners with vital intelligence from surveillance flights to help choose targets for the airstrikes in Yemen, officials said. American military planners are using live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen to help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb, U.S. officials said.

Under the plan, the U.S. would beef up its role in a new military coordination center set up with the Saudis and other countries in the region taking part in the evolving operation. The center has become the focal point for military planning and a handful of Americans are currently taking part, officials said. That number is expected to grow…

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5.5 magnitude earthquake 98 km from Áyios Nikólaos, Lasithi, Greece

24 minutes ago
UTC time: Friday, March 27, 2015 23:34 PM
Your time: Friday, March 27 2015 4:34 PM
Magnitude Type: mb
USGS page: M 5.5 - 59km WNW of Karpathos, Greece
USGS status: Reviewed by a seismologist
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Unread 03-28-2015, 05:18 PM
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Re: ARIES, LIBRA, CAPRICORN transit this week is a War Aspect for all to be aware of

Somalia hotel siege ends, 14 dead: government

(Reuters) - A hotel siege by al Shabaab militants in the Somali capital has ended and the final death toll from the attack stands at 14, a senior government official said on Saturday.

Al Shabaab fighters blasted and shot their way into the popular Hotel Maka Al Mukaram on Friday afternoon, trapping many government officials.

Security personnel, led by a unit from the elite U.S.-trained special forces troops known as "Gaashaan" (Shield) stormed the hotel on Friday evening and fought the attackers into Saturday.

Mohamed Abdi, information minister, said the 14 dead included Somalia's ambassador to Geneva, five civilians, four hotel guards and four government soldiers. Four attackers, including one who detonated a car bomb, were also killed.

"The hotel operation is over and these are the dead bodies of the militants who wanted to slaughter our people. Thanks to our forces who saved our people in the hotel," he said at the scene while displaying the militants' bodies to reporters.

Police had previously put the number of dead at 15, and 20 wounded.

African peacekeeping forces pushed al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab out of Mogadishu in 2011, but it has kept up guerrilla-style attacks, looking to overthrow the government and impose its strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law, on the country.

The AU Mission in Somalia condemned the attack, including the killing of Somalia's representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Yusuf Bari-Bari.

"Our message to the perpetrators of this inhuman act is that their action will not dampen our spirit for the common good of Somalia," it said in a statement.

Sheikh Ali Mahamud Rage, al Shabaab's spokesman, said in an emailed statement that fighters who had survived the attack had left the hotel, and he threatened more violence. He did not say how many people had been involved in the attack.

Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's military operations spokesman, said they had targeted only government officials and had spared civilians.

Earlier on Saturday journalists and paramedics had been barred from entering the hotel grounds and had only been allowed to watch from its gate.

Streets surrounding the hotel were sealed off by government and African Union peacekeeping troops.

An offensive launched last year by AU forces along with the Somali army has driven al Shabaab from its strongholds in central and southern Somalia, while a series of U.S. drone strikes have killed some of its top leaders.

In February, al Shabaab fighters attacked another hotel in Mogadishu, killing at least 25.
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Unread 03-28-2015, 07:28 PM
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Re: ARIES, LIBRA, CAPRICORN transit this week is a War Aspect for all to be aware of

World | Sat Mar 28, 2015 11:44am EDT

Iran and powers close in on 2-3 page nuclear deal, success uncertain


(Reuters) - Iran and major powers are close to agreeing a two- or three-page accord with specific numbers as the basis of a resolution of a 12-year standoff over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, officials have told Reuters.

As the French and German foreign ministers arrived in Switzerland on Saturday to join talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Western and Iranian officials familiar with the negotiations cautioned that they could still fail.

Kerry and Zarif have been in Lausanne for days to try to reach an outline agreement by a self-imposed deadline of March 31 between Iran on the one hand and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China on the other.

"The sides are very, very close to the final step and it could be signed or agreed and announced verbally," a senior Iranian official familiar with the talks told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Other officials echoed the remarks while warning that several crucial issues were still being hotly debated.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on arrival: "I hope we can get a robust agreement. Iran has the right to civil nuclear power, but with regard to the atomic bomb, it's 'no'."

"The talks were long and difficult," he added. "We have moved forward on certain points, but on others not enough."

World | Sat Mar 28, 2015 12:34pm EDT

Diplomats and U.N. staff flee Yemen as Houthis target Aden


(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's navy evacuated dozens of diplomats from Yemen and the United Nations pulled out international staff on Saturday after a third night of Saudi-led air strikes trying to stem advances by Iranian-allied Houthi fighters.

Residents reported heavy clashes between the Houthis and mainly Sunni tribal fighters in the south of the country, while the Saudi-led air campaign sought to stall a fresh offensive by the Shi'ite Muslim group on Aden from the east.

Riyadh's intervention, a surprise move from a conservative monarchy better known for flexing its muscle in oil markets than through military might, is planned to last a month but could extend for five or six, a Gulf diplomatic source said.

He said satellite imagery had shown that the Houthis had repositioned long-range Scud missiles in the north, close to the Saudi border and aimed at Saudi territory. A Yemeni official said Iran was providing parts for the missiles.

On Friday, the Houthis and allied army units gained their first foothold on Yemen's Arabian Sea coast by seizing Shaqra, 100 km (60 miles) east of Aden, allowing them to open a new front to march on the south's main city.

World | Sat Mar 28, 2015 1:31pm EDT

Gunmen kill 15 in Nigeria during tense election


Reuters) - Gunmen killed at least 15 people including an opposition politician near polling stations in northeast Nigeria on Saturday, casting an ominous shadow over the closest electoral contest since the end of military rule in 1999.

The tense race pits President Goodluck Jonathan against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari for the favor of an electorate divided along a complex mix of ethnic, regional and in some cases religious lines.

The poll is seen as the first election in Africa's most populous nation in which an opposition candidate has a serious chance of unseating the incumbent, and widespread fears it could trigger violence are already becoming reality.

Islamist Boko Haram insurgents launched several attacks on voters in the northeast, killing three in Yobe state and three more in Gombe state, police said.

Somalia hotel siege ends; U.N. diplomat, 19 others killed

By Omar Nor and Faith Karimi, CNN
Updated 11:51 AM ET, Sat March 28, 2015

Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN)A siege that started with gunmen detonating a bomb and spraying bullets in a hotel in Somalia ended Saturday with at least 20 people dead, authorities said.

The attack, which lasted hours, began when gunmen raided the hotel in Mogadishu on Friday evening.

Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari, Somalia's permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, was among those killed in the attack, the Somali government said.

"He will be remembered for his strong personal commitment to protecting and promoting human rights for all," Nicholas Kay, special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to Somalia, said of Bari-Bari.

Farhio Bashir Nor, a Somali-American from Virginia was also among those killed, her family confirmed.

Farhio, a financial assistant with Somalia's central bank in Mogadishu, had returned to country about a year ago.

Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.
The attack started about 5 p.m. local time when a car bomb exploded at the hotel's entrance, according to witness Aden Hussein, who said he was nearby when the blast happened.

Gunmen then stormed into the hotel and opened fire, Hussein said.

They overpowered the hotel's security guards, said police Capt. Ahmed Abdi, adding that the gun battle between Somali special forces and the attackers lasted at least 17 hours.

One of the attackers, who was wearing a belt with explosives, blew himself up inside the hotel, police Capt. Ahmed Abdi said.

Some members of the terror group "stormed into the first, second and third floors of the hotel where rooms are located and held several people hostage," according to a statement from the African Union Commission to Somalia, a peacekeeping mission.

The Makka Al Mukarama hotel, located along a highway leading to the country's presidential palace, is popular with lawmakers, journalists, business people and Somalis returning home from abroad.

Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the attack as a "heinous and inhuman act" in an interview with state-run Radio Mogadishu during an official visit to Egypt.

In a statement, Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said Al-Shabaab's "talk of 'legitimate targets' and 'justification'" exposes "the sham logic behind their lust for terror."

"These terrorists contradict Islam and betray Somalia," he said.

The injured, along with the bodies of the dead, could not be removed from the hotel until after the hours-long gunfight.

More than 10 people, most of them Kenyan nationals who worked at the hotel, were rescued, police said.

Al-Shabaab said it targeted the hotel because its guests are spies and government officials.

The terror group has been active in Somalia for years.

Initially, its goal was implementing a stricter form of Islamic law, or Sharia, by warring against the Somali government. It has since shifted its focus to launching terror attacks in Somalia and beyond.

"We reiterate again that there will be no safe haven for the crusaders and apostates in Somalia, and that our attacks on them will continue until the enemy of Allah (is) defeated and his law is implemented fully in Somalia," the group said in a statement.

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Re: ARIES, LIBRA, CAPRICORN transit this week is a War Aspect for all to be aware of

World | Sat Mar 28, 2015 2:23pm EDT

Islamist groups seize Syrian city Idlib for first time

(Reuters) - Islamist groups including al Qaeda's Nusra Front have seized the city of Idlib for the first time in Syria's civil war, fighters and a monitoring group said on Saturday.

By taking Idlib, capital of a northwestern province of the same name, hardline Islamist insurgents now control a second province after Raqqa, the stronghold of the Islamic State group which has been the target of U.S.-led air strikes.

Sunni Islamist groups have formed an alliance which includes Nusra, the hardline Ahrar al-Sham movement and Jund al-Aqsa, but not Islamic State, their rival. They launched the offensive to capture Idlib city on Tuesday.

Syrian officials could not be immediately reached for comment. State media said fighting continued and the army had managed to halt the insurgents' advances on the northern, eastern and southern sides of the city.

"The army is fighting fierce battles to restore the situation back to what it was," state television said, adding that the army had killed hundreds of fighters.

Groups taking part in the offensive to seize the city posted videos on the internet showing fighters roaming the streets. Voices in the videos said they were in the center of the city.

The film showed insurgents shooting in the air and chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) outside a compound formerly held by government forces.

Idlib, a city whose population has been swollen by hundreds of thousands of displaced people from other parts of Syria, is close to the strategic highway linking Damascus to Aleppo and to the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad.
"They have entered the city from several sides but the major push was from the northern and western sides," said Rami Abdelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group which monitors the civil war.

The Islamist alliance calls its operation Army of Fatah, a reference to the conquests that spread Islam across the Middle East from the seventh century.

Footage posted on the internet earlier on Saturday by Nusra Front showed dozens of fighters in the streets of what a voiceover said was Idlib city.

"This is my house, for four years I have not entered it. This is my neighborhood, this is our country and by God's will we will liberate it and settle Muslims in it," a fighter said in the video.

He was welcomed by several men. Some embraced him and wept.

In another video, fighters were shown on top of a building which bore the insignia of Assad's Baath party, trying to tear down huge posters of the president.

Syria's four-year-old war has killed more than 220,000 people and forced millions out of their homes.

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5.8 magnitude earthquake 119 km from Gorontalo, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia

about 5 hours ago
UTC time: Saturday, March 28, 2015 22:28 PM
Your time: Saturday, March 28 2015 3:28 PM
Magnitude Type: mb
USGS page: M 5.8 - 40km WSW of Tilamuta, Indonesia
USGS status: Reviewed by a seismologist
Reports from the public: 0 people

5.6 magnitude earthquake 49 km from Calama, Antofagasta, Chile

about 6 hours ago
UTC time: Saturday, March 28, 2015 16:36 PM
Your time: Saturday, March 28 2015 9:36 AM
Magnitude Type: mww
USGS page: M 5.6 - 49km NE of Calama, Chile
USGS status: Reviewed by a seismologist
Reports from the public: 8 people

5.3 magnitude earthquake 125 km from Bitung, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia

about 16 hours ago
UTC time: Friday, March 27, 2015 13:56 PM
Your time: Friday, March 27 2015 6:56 AM
Magnitude Type: mb
USGS page: M 5.3 - 125km E of Bitung, Indonesia
USGS status: Reviewed by a seismologist
Reports from the public: 0 people

5.3 magnitude earthquake 33 km from Tena, Napo, Ecuador

about 8 hours ago
UTC time: Friday, March 27, 2015 21:59 PM
Your time: Friday, March 27 2015 2:59 PM
Magnitude Type: mb
USGS page: M 5.3 - 33km SE of Tena, Ecuador
USGS status: Reviewed by a seismologist
Reports from the public: 6 people

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Boko Haram blamed for decapitations

By Aminu Abubakar, for CNN
Updated 7:28 PM ET, Sat March 28, 2015

Kano, Nigeria (CNN)Suspected Boko Haram gunmen decapitated 23 people in a raid on Buratai village in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, residents and a politician said Saturday.

Scores of attackers invaded the village at 11 p.m. Friday when residents were mostly asleep and set homes on fire, hacking residents who tried to flee.

"‎The gunmen slaughtered their 23 victims like rams and decapitated them. They injured several people," said Ibrahim Adamu, a local politician who fled.

"They burned a large part of the village and we are afraid some residents were burnt in the homes because most people had gone to bed when the gunmen struck," said Adamu, a ward councilor in the village.

A paramedic ‎at a government hospital in the nearby town of Biu said 32 people from Buratai were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds and burns.

"The injured victims said a lot of people were beheaded by the attackers," the paramedic said.

Buratai now has been attacked twice by Boko Haram in the past year. In September, the Islamist insurgents launched an attack on the village that was repelled by soldiers deployed to guard the home of a Nigerian army general from the village.

The soldiers killed 20 of the gunmen.

It is not clear whether the attack was in reprisal over their loss in the previous attack or was linked to the Nigeria general elections ‎that commenced Saturday.

Boko Haram vowed to disrupt the elections.
The militant group ISIS earlier this month said that a pledge of allegiance from Boko Haram has been accepted.

The warning signs, straight-A student was on road to Syrian Isis stronghold
Twitter account in the name of radicalised medical student Lena Mamoun Abdel Gabir showed support for Charlie Hebdo killers and radical cleric Ahmad Musa Jibril.

The warning signs were clear months before British medical student Lena Mamoun Abdel Gabir left for Syria to volunteer in Islamic State-controlled areas – if anyone had thought to look.

Between pictures of flowers and cupcakes, jokes about Nutella and getting married, a Twitter account, apparently run by the 19-year-old, had followed Isis-supporting accounts, re-tweeted her support for the Charlie Hebdo killers, and, last August, shared a video by a radical cleric hugely popular with European and North American jihadists.

The content was deceptively dull, a lecture on whether Muslims should vote in council elections. The real message was the desire to share the thoughts of Palestinian-American preacher Ahmad Musa Jibril. He has been identified as the leading online cheerleader for foreign jihadists in Syria, according to a pioneering academic study published by King’s College London, exploring how radical preachers inspire and guide British and other western Muslims who go to fight.

Jibril’s video should have made an unusual choice for the daughter of two prosperous doctors, brought up in an idyllic Norfolk village, educated at a private school and, according to her former headteacher, a straight-A student.

“She was ferociously bright, engaged and focused on her academic studies,” said Chris Staley, headteacher of Wisbech Grammar. “She was a regular in the hockey team throughout her time here, was a form representative, sat on the pupil council and was a member of the student voice. Her desire to help others was clear to see for those who taught her.”

Gabir went on to study medicine in Khartoum, where she stayed with her grandmother and was ostensibly devoted to her university studies, but appears to have been gradually radicalised. The Sudanese government is trying to crack down on extremism, but it is believed about 100 fighters have left there for Syria and Iraq, and one Salafi group declared its support for Isis nearly a year ago.

It appears that Gabir, and about 10 other medical students who travelled to Syria at the same time, frequently attended meetings close to the university with an extremist preacher who, sources claim, impressed on them the importance of supporting Isis with their medical expertise.

“You can get radicalised online but you still need one-to-one contact and this guy seems to be that particular contact,” said Hara Rafiq, managing director of the London-based Quilliam Foundation thinktank.

By the time the link to Jibril’s lecture was posted last August, Gabir’s embrace of extremist views was apparently worrying her parents, according to the tweets on @lenaalinglingg. “You know times are rough when… your mum keeps referring to you as da3ish (Isis),” a tweet on 22 August read, using a common Arabic name for Isis.

But it is still a teenage timeline; full of fretting about what to do with holiday time back in the UK, after a warning that window-shopping is un-Islamic, frustration with relatives who want to talk about marriage, and tributes to Nutella. The other Twitter accounts followed include now-discredited Isis champion @ShamiWitness, and the @VeiledByChoice account, which has the Isis flag as its backdrop – but also The Economist magazine, comedian Frankie Boyle, and the lighthearted @ThingsAKidSaid.

Gabir’s father, an orthopaedic surgeon who raced to the Turkish border when she went missing, said neither he nor his wife had accused their daughter of having radical views and said the tweets were not hers. “Lena’s Twitter account has been hacked since the beginning of last year and she said she is not using it,” her father, Mamoun Abdel Gabir, told the Observer.

He is currently based near the Turkish border with parents of most of the other missing children, who are mostly British but also include an American, a Canadian and two Sudanese citizens. One of the parents, who did not want to be named, said they had not been monitoring their children’s lives online because they trusted them: “They are adults, we don’t check their Facebook accounts.”

One group that might have raised suspicions if the parents had gone looking is the innocuously named Islamic Cultural Association, a group “liked” by several of the 11-strong group that travelled to Syria from Khartoum medical school. Gabir, on a Facebook page that has since been taken down, was among those who subscribed. A page for the medical university branch includes inspirational quotes and religious commentary in both English and Arabic, suggesting it was aimed not just at students who grew up in Sudan, but a diaspora that had been educated in English abroad and come back for medical studies.

The Facebook page for the Khartoum university branch regularly posts radical content, including quotes from Michigan-based Jibril, as well as other controversial clerics, including former al-Qaida propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. While Jibril is not a member of Isis or a recruiter for the group, the King’s College study said he belongs to a “set of new spiritual authorities” who have the largest followings among foreign jihadists.

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