Tuesday, September 08, 2009

DTN News: Eurocopter South East Asia (ESEA) Signs A Contract With Royal Thai Police (RTP) For 3 EC155 Dauphin Helicopters

DTN News: Eurocopter South East Asia (ESEA) Signs A Contract With Royal Thai Police (RTP) For 3 EC155 Dauphin Helicopters
*Source: DTN News / EADS (NSI News Source Info) HONG KONG - September 8, 2009: Eurocopter, the world’s leading helicopter manufacturer is pleased to announce the contract signature of 3 EC155 Dauphin helicopters with the Royal Thai Police (RTP) at Asian Aerospace in Hong Kong. These 3 new medium weight twin-engine helicopters will be delivered in 2011 and will be dedicated to VVIP missions. Dr. Bernhard Brenner, President of Eurocopter South East Asia declared at this occasion, “We are delighted at this proof of confidence from the RTP. We have been present in Thailand for nearly 20 years and have recently opened a branch office in Bangkok to provide better support to our customers in the region. We are constantly improving our range of products, equipment and services in order to better satisfy our customers’ needs both in this country as well as in the rest of the world.” Captain Chesda Indrasthitya, Aviation Commander of Royal Thai Police added, “This is not the first time that we are buying the EC155 helicopter.
There are already 2 EC155s in our current fleet and our past experiences have shown that it is a truly versatile helicopter which fully meets our mission requirements.” The EC155’s high speed, increased payload and long endurance capacities render it an ideal tool for various law enforcement operations ranging from patrol and airborne surveillance to Search and Rescue missions.
With the largest cabin and lift capacity in its class, the EC155 can deliver elite tactical units of up to 13 members and equipment over long distances. Many law enforcement authorities in the world are currently operating the EC155 helicopter, for instance in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, Japan, Germany, and United States, not forgetting Thailand of course.
Often employed in Europe to patrol land and sea borders, the EC155 is mainly used to patrol territorial waters and for fire fighting missions in Asia. Today, Eurocopter has become the reference in law enforcement and homeland security segment with an international market share of over 50% and an European share of nearly 90%. 28 countries throughout the world are currently operating Eurocopter helicopters for security missions - the most important markets are found in the United States, South America, Europe and Asia, with high growth potential in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, without forgetting China. About Eurocopter South East Asia Eurocopter South East Asia (ESEA) is the Regional Headquarters of Eurocopter, the world’s leading helicopter manufacturer. Established in 1977 in Singapore, ESEA is in-charge of the sales and customer support activities of 14 territories in the region. In 2008, ESEA achieved a turnover of 85 million Euros. With a staff-strength of nearly 200 professionals, the company has developed a successful commercial network of Singapore-based sales team and regional sales managers and technical representatives. About Eurocopter Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 15,600 people. In 2008, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer in the civil and parapublic market, with a turnover of 4.5 billion Euros, orders for 715 new helicopters, and a 53 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors. Overall, the Group’s products account for 30 percent of the total world helicopter fleet. Its strong worldwide presence is ensured by its 18 subsidiaries on five continents, along with a dense network of distributors, certified agents and maintenance centres. More than 10,000 Eurocopter helicopters are currently in service with over 2,800 customers in more than 140 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and military helicopter range in the world.

DTN News: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez May Sign Arms Deals On Russia Visit ~ Report

DTN News: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez May Sign Arms Deals On Russia Visit ~ Report
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - September 8, 2009: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could sign new deals to buy Russian arms and military vehicles during his visit to Moscow this week, a Russian defense industry source was quoted as saying Tuesday. The Mi-28 combat helicopter has been developed by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and is known by the NATO codename Havoc. In August 1996 Mil rolled out a prototype of the day and night capable version, the Mi-28N Night Havoc. The first production Mi-28N took its first flight in April 2004 and began flight testing with the Russian Air Force in June 2005. The Russian Air Force has plans to procure up to 60 of this variant, now called the Mi-28NE Night Hunter. "The Mi-28 can be armed with a mixture of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, unguided rockets, and podded guns. "Three were ordered in 2005 and 16 more in 2006 for delivery by 2008. The first production aircraft was delivered in May 2006 and began formal acceptance testing in September 2006. Five aircraft are involved in the testing which is scheduled to conclude in early 2008. Mi-28 can fly at a maximum speed of 300km/h, can fly rearwards and sideways at speeds up to 100km/h and is able to hover turn at 45° a second. "An array of new arms contracts with Venezuela are now being prepared, whose signing could coincide with Hugo Chavez's visit to Moscow," the source told Interfax news agency. Venezuela is expected to buy three diesel-powered Kilo-class submarines, a "large shipment" of BMP-3 armored vehicles and T-72 battle tanks, 10 Mi-28 helicopters and "several" land-based anti-ship missiles, he added. The total value of the contracts was not given. Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova denied that there were any plans for new Russian-Venezuelan arms deals during Chavez's visit. The two energy-rich countries are to sign an oil and gas agreement, Timakova told reporters, without giving further details. Chavez, a leftist firebrand who has repeatedly criticized the U.S. for its "imperialist" policies in Latin America, is due to arrive in Moscow Wednesday for a two-day visit. The Venezuelan leader is scheduled to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Thursday. In recent years, Venezuela has signed over $4 billion worth of arms contracts with Russia, and last November its navy held joint exercises with Russian warships in the Caribbean, traditionally seen as a U.S. domain.

DTN News: Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition DSEi ~ China In Spotlight As Largest Defence Fair Opens

DTN News: Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition DSEi ~ China In Spotlight As Largest Defence Fair Opens
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) LONDON, England - September 8, 2009: The world's largest defence fair opened here on Tuesday, with a Chinese delegation among those showing their wares despite an European Union arms embargo against Beijing. More than 40 countries are represented at the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition by some1,300 exhibitors selling everything from machine guns and tanks to medical equipment and anti-bomb devices. A Chinese delegation comprised of about nine members of the military and the Chinese ambassador are among those attending the four-day event, at the invitation of Britain's trade body, UK Trade and Investments. But they will not be meeting any of the major defence contractors, UKTI spokesman Adam Thomas said, focusing instead on humanitarian and disaster relief equipment, as well as security technology including biometric devices. China is subject to a Europe-wide arms embargo, which in Britain prevents the export of lethal weapons, their components or ammunition, military aircraft or platforms and any equipment that could be used for internal repression. It was imposed by the European Union following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. It is not the first time a Chinese delegation has attended the DSEi show. They were here two years ago, and were also invited to the Farnborough Air Show, although they did not attend, Thomas said. However, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said they were "shocked" at the inclusion of China and rejected the argument that the delegations were only in London to see humantarian equipment. "We are shocked but not surprised," said media coordinator Kaye Stearman. "China is such a massive abuser of human rights and there has been an embargo in place for more then 20 years. But then we do see components sold to China -- the rules are pretty flexible." The campaign organised a demonstration outside the UKTI offices in central London in protest at what Stearman called Britain's "cosy relationship" with the international arms trade -- as emphasised by this week's defence fair. Fifty-three major defence contractors are at DSEi this year to present their latest developments, including high-tech clothing for soldiers in combat and ways of delivering breathable atmospheres in nuclear-powered submarines. Three naval vessels -- two from Britain's Royal Navy and one from the Dutch Navy -- were berthed on the waterway outside the conference centre, where a display of equipment used in anti-piracy operations was also due to be held.

DTN News: UAE Air Force Aircraft C-130 With Arms 'Detained' At Kolkata Airport

DTN News: UAE Air Force Aircraft C-130 With Arms 'Detained' At Kolkata Airport
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) KOLKATA, India - September 8, 2009: Almost 24 hours after arms and ammunition were detected aboard an UAE Air Force aircraft at the NSC Bose Airport, authorities here have made no "arrests" or "seizures", awaiting a nod from the Ministry of External Office, which has got in touch with the UAE authorities. The C-130 plane was on its way to Hanyang in China from Abu Dhabi when it landed at the NSC Bose International airport for refuelling at 5.30 pm on Sunday. The arms and ammunition were detected in it during the routine physical check following which the plane and the crew on board were detained for detailed interrogation, customs authorities said. The UAE plane was granted permission to land by the Indian Air Force after the Air Traffic Control contacted the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which asked it to get in touch with the IAF. Customs and airport officials are waiting for instructions from the MEA and defence ministry whether to let the aircraft take off or not. Both the aircraft and its crew officially remained "detained". Customs and Air Force officers interrogated them later. Through the day, the authorities remained tightlipped over the developments. "We have interrogated the crew and just detained them so far. It seems there has been a miscommunication as a result of which the information regarding arms and ammunition on board was not disclosed. Our commissioner Sandip Kumar spoke to the crew. We have made no arrests or seizures. At present, we are awaiting clearance from External Affairs and Defence ministries and thereafter we will let them go," said a Customs public relations officer attached to the NSC Bose Airport. Sources said after the detention of the aircraft, high-level talks have begun between the MEA, UAE and China to resolve the impasse. Customs officials have been directed to "detain" the plane and its crew till further orders. It all began when the UAE aircraft requested and was allowed to land at NSC Bose airport in Kolkata around 5 pm on Sunday. The C-130 military plane and its 10-member crew had landed for refuelling. The aircraft, which took off from Abu Dhabi, was headed for Xianyang International Airport in China. During the check, arms and explosives were found aboard the aircraft in violation of a declaration that allowed them to land for refuelling in the city. "It was a non-scheduled stop for the aircraft and according to rules, our officers checked it," added the Customs PRO. Though the aircraft had documents from the Defence Ministry clearing its flight in the Indian airspace, the document made no mention of arms and ammunition. "According to rules, it is mandatory for an aircraft to declare that it is carrying arms. Our Air Force was informed and it took up the matter with the MEA," said Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani, the defence ministry CPRO in Kolkata. According to sources, the UAE government had sought permission from the Indian Air Force to let the aircraft fly over Indian airspace on September 2 and the permission was granted. Since their detention on Sunday evening, the captain and the nine other crew members have been accommodated at a private luxury hotel off EM Bypass. The aircraft is sealed and parked at a bay near hangar number 14 of the airport. On Monday, the crew members were interrogated in phases but not arrested.

DTN News: France Says Brazil Jet Deal Worth 4.5 to 5.0 Billion Euros

DTN News: France Says Brazil Jet Deal Worth 4.5 to 5.0 Billion Euros *Brazil to assemble French fighters, could sell to Latin America ~ Foreign Minister Celso Amorim *Source: DTN News / Reuters (NSI News Source Info) BRASILIA, Brazil - September 8, 2009: The Rafale contract between France and Brazil would be worth 4.5 to 5.0 billion euros (3.9 to 4.4 billion pounds) and delivery would begin in 2013, a source in French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said on Monday. The building of the French planes would gradually be transferred to Brazil, the source said. (Image: Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engined delta-wing highly agile multi-role 4.5th-generation jet fighter aircraft) In exchange, France has agreed to buy around a dozen KC-390 military cargo planes, made by Brazil's Embraer . That contract is worth around 500 million euros, the source said. Brazil would assemble Rafale fighter jets under an imminent deal with France, and could sell them to other Latin American nations, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Monday. His comments came after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that Brazil had started talks to acquire 36 Rafale combat planes in a deal worth billions of dollars.

DTN News: Business TODAY September 8, 2009 ~ Kraft Foods Makes Pound 10.2 Billion Bid For Cadbury

DTN News: Business TODAY September 8, 2009 ~ Kraft Foods Makes Pound 10.2 Billion Bid For Cadbury *Source: DTN News / AFP
(NSI News Source Info) LONDON, England - September 8, 2009: US snacks company Kraft Foods launched a 10.2 billion pound bid for its British rival Cadbury on Monday, with traders expecting the price to run higher as takeover activity returns to the markets. Cadbury said it had rejected the offer, worth the equivalent of 16.7 billion dollars or 11.7 billion euros, but Kraft said it hoped the confectionery giant would eventually jump on board. Cadbury's share price surged by 41 percent after the announcement. Kraft Foods, the world's second biggest snacks group after Nestle, said it hoped the takeover would increase annual revenues to 50 billion dollars a year. (A bar of Cadbury's chocolate. US giant Kraft Foods has launched a pound10.2 billion takeover bid for Cadbury but the confectionery maker rejected the offer, saying it was too low) "At the moment traders seem to be happy to speculate that a revised offer could well be forthcoming," said David Jones, chief market strategist at financial betting firm IG Index. One analyst said a bidding battle may even occur, as takeover activity returns to the market following the worst economic downturn in decades. Evolution Securities analyst Warren Ackerman, cited by Dow Jones Newswires, said "there is a reasonable chance" that Nestle could take Cadbury's chewing gum business and US group Hershey the chocolate operations. A tie-up between Kraft and Cadbury would merge leading Kraft brands Oreo biscuits and Maxwell House coffee with Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate and Trident chewing gum. "Kraft Foods Inc. today announces that it has made a proposal to the board of Cadbury plc to combine the two companies," said a statement issued by Kraft to the London Stock Exchange. The offer "values the entire issued share capital of Cadbury at 10.2 billion pounds," it added. "This proposed combination is about growth," Kraft Foods chairman and chief executive Irene B. Rosenfeld said in her company's statement. "We are eager to build upon Cadbury's iconic brands and strong British heritage through increased investment and innovation." She added: "We hope to engage with the Board of Cadbury on a constructive basis with the goal of consummating a recommended transaction." But Cadbury, led by American chief executive Todd Stitzer, rejected the proposal, saying it "fundamentally undervalues" the company and its prospects. Cadbury also voiced confidence in its "standalone strategy and growth prospects." Shares in Cadbury, the world's second biggest confectionery company behind Mars, shot up 40.76 percent to 799.5 pence in afternoon London trade. Nestle rose 1.15 percent to 43.82 Swiss francs in Zurich. "I do not think that Nestle will counterbid," said independent analyst James Amoroso. "Nestle has much to gain from the disruption that a Kraft takeover would create. Cadbury and Kraft culture is very different and possibly incompatible. The overlaps between Cadbury and Nestle are considerable so that anti-trust issues would be inevitable. Thus, Nestle would not want to pay the premium." Kraft Foods said it had proposed 300 pence in cash and 0.2589 new Kraft Foods shares per Cadbury share. This valued each Cadbury share at 745 pence, 31 percent higher than Cadbury's closing share price last Friday, but below its trading level on Monday. "We believe that Kraft will need to up its offer to have any serious chance of success, perhaps to 800 pence in cash or higher and may need assistance given that it already has around 15 billion dollars debt," said Jeremy Batstone-Carr, an analyst at the Charles Stanley brokerage. Kraft Foods said a tie-up would lift its revenues to about 50 billion dollars a year from 42 billion dollars presently. It added that by combining the groups, plans for about 500 job cuts at Cadbury in Britain would be scrapped.

DTN News: Afghan Group Says NATO Strike Killed 70 Civilians

DTN News: Afghan Group Says NATO Strike Killed 70 Civilians *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) KUNDUZ, Afghanistan - September 8, 2009: An Afghan rights group said Monday a recent airstrike on a pair of hijacked fuel tankers killed as many as 70 civilians in northern Afghanistan, as the German troops whose commander ordered the bombing defended the action. A German ISAF soldier checks the time prior to a mission with his unit in the region of Kunduz, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009. A senior German official on Monday pushed back against criticism of last week's deadly German-ordered airstrike in northern Afghanistan, arguing that outsiders should withhold judgment pending investigations. Deputy Defense Minister Christian Schmidt's comments underlined the potential for tension inside NATO over Friday's strike. Afghan Rights Monitor, an independent human rights group, reported that its survey of the area following Friday's attack shows it killed as many as 70 villagers who were siphoning gas from the vehicles after they became stuck on a sand spit in the Kunduz River. The group's report came as the German government backed down from its previous insistence that only the Taliban hijackers had died, conceding some civilians likely were killed But Germany defended the decision to call in an airstrike, citing fears the tankers could have been used to mount a suicide attack on its troops. Mohammad Omar, the governor of Kunduz, has also said he fully supported the airstrike, which he said killed up to 72 people _ likely all militants. The Taliban, however, issued a statement calling on the U.N. to join an international investigation of the bombing and claiming that 150 villagers had died. "If they respect human rights and the blood of human beings, they should determine the truth or falsity of this situation," the statement said. German soldiers in Kunduz on Monday rejected criticism that their commanders acted rashly in calling in the U.S. warplanes. Three soldiers from Armored Infantry Battalion 391, who spoke on condition of anonymity under German military rules, said they went to the scene of the airstrike hours after it occurred and found Afghan police carrying broken weapons away from the smoldering tankers _ proving, they said, the dead were linked to insurgents. The soldiers, interviewed at their Kunduz base, were eager to defend their commander, Col. Georg Klein, who asked U.S. jets to attack the hijackers. But that decision has come under intense criticism, inside and outside Afghanistan. In another incident where NATO coalition troops were criticized for their use of force, a charity Monday accused American soldiers of storming through a provincial hospital, breaking down doors and tying up staff and visitors. The U.S. military said it was investigating the allegation. Civilian deaths have undermined support for foreign forces among many Afghans. Growing public anger prompted the top American and NATO commander in the country, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to draw up a new doctrine aimed at limiting such casualties. McChrystal has pledged to investigate Friday's air strike. The attack on the hijacked tankers provoked outrage in Germany, where newspapers ran graphic photos of badly burned victims, stoking opposition to the war. Germany, which has some 4,200 soldiers in northern Afghanistan _ the third largest contingent of foreign forces behind the United States and Britain _ has been reluctant to commit more troops. At the same time, the U.S. and its NATO allies are considering a major expansion of their troop levels here. For many Germans, the country's role in the Afghan conflict raises unwelcome memories of their country's past militarism. The German public also fears losing more soldiers _ 35 have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002. Battalion 391's third company has already lost two soldiers in combat since arriving in Kunduz three months ago. Sitting in a shady courtyard in the Kunduz base, the three German soldiers said they hoped voters and politicians would rally behind their work, which is under intense scrutiny as the country gears up for Sept. 27 parliamentary elections. They added that they are proud of their record in Afghanistan. German troops operate under more restrictive rules of engagement than some other NATO forces, and until last week had a reputation for caution. They have even drawn criticism for their restraint. U.S. military expert Anthony Cordesman has said the Germans' low profile has contributed to an increase of militant activity in the north, particularly around the Kunduz region where support for the Taliban is strong. Omar, the Kunduz governor, told senior German officers Monday that the people of his province want them to take a tougher stand against militants. But the German soldiers said they have engaged militants whenever necessary and would continue to do so. They also said their caution has resulted in fewer civilian casualties than U.S. troops operating farther south. "There's not one cowboy among us," the officer said, as other soldiers nodded assent.

DTN News: U.S. Offers Yemen Help In "Fight Against Terrorism"

DTN News: U.S. Offers Yemen Help In "Fight Against Terrorism" *Source: DTN News / Reuters
(NSI News Source Info) SANAA, Yemen - September 8, 2009: The United States has offered to help Yemen in its "fight against terrorism" and assist the country with its reforms, the Yemeni state news agency Saba said late on Sunday. A Yemeni army tank travels on a road during clashes with rebels in the northwestern province of Saada in this undated picture released by the Yemeni army September 7, 2009. The United States has offered to help Yemen in its "fight against terrorism" and assist the country with its reforms, the Yemeni state news agency Saba said late on Sunday. U.S. President Barack Obama said in a letter delivered by his counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh that the United States will "stand beside Yemen, its unity, security and stability." The Arab world's poorest country is battling a Shi'ite revolt in the north, separatist unrest in the south, and intensified al Qaeda militancy. International concern over Yemen has heightened because instability there could endanger neighbors including Saudi Arabia and complicate efforts to combat al Qaeda and piracy in the Gulf of Aden. "Yemen's security is vital to the security of the United States and the region, and America will adopt an initiative to help Yemen ... face development challenges and support reform efforts," Obama's letter said. Obama said al Qaeda was a "common threat...dangerous to everyone," Saba reported. In August, a new wave of fighting erupted between rebel Shi'ite Muslims of the Zaydi sect and government forces trying to impose central authority. The conflict first began in 2004. The northern rebels, or Houthis, have accused the government of using Saudi weaponry, issuing video footage of mortars bearing Saudi emblems. A Yemeni official told Reuters early on Monday that Brennan discussed with Saleh the importance of Yemen's continuation of economic and political reforms. The meeting discussed Yemen's counterterrorism efforts and the assistance the U.S. might offer in this regard, without giving further details, the official said.

DTN News: Russia's Strategic Missile Forces To Play War Games On Sept. 8-11

DTN News: Russia's Strategic Missile Forces To Play War Games On Sept. 8-11 *Source: DTN News / RIA Novosti
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - September 8, 2009: Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) will conduct on September 8-11 large-scale command-and-staff exercises involving over 2,000 personnel, an SMF spokesman said on Monday. "During the exercises, the SMF will practice operations control in scenarios involving conventional and nuclear warfare," the official said. "A total of over 2,000 servicemen and 150 theater- and tactical-level command-and-control centers will take part in the drills," he said. The exercise coincides with the start of the Russian-Belarusian large-scale Zapad 2009 exercises, which will be held on September 8-29 and involve around 13,000 service personnel on both sides. Russia's SMF plans by 2016 to modernize its command-and-control systems in order to improve their ability to overcome missile defenses and increase the survivability of delivery vehicles. At present, six types of silo-based and mobile ICBM systems are on combat duty with the SMF, including the heavy Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan), capable of carrying 10 warheads, and the Topol-M (Stalin) systems. According to open sources, the total arsenal of Russia's SMF comprises 538 ICBMs, including 306 SS-25 Topol (Sickle) missiles and 56 SS-27 Topol-M missiles. Silo-based missiles constitute 45% of the total ballistic missile arsenal. They carry about 85% of nuclear warheads deployed by the SMF.

DTN News: Missing Channel Pirate Ship Carried Russian Arms For Iran

DTN News: Missing Channel Pirate Ship Carried Russian Arms For Iran *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) TEL AVIV, Israel - September 8, 2009: A cargo ship that vanished in the Channel was carrying arms to Iran and was being tracked by Mossad, the Israeli security service, according to sources in both Russia and Israel. The Arctic Sea, officially carrying a cargo of timber worth £1.3m, disappeared en route from Finland to Algeria on July 24. It was recovered off west Africa on August 17 when eight alleged hijackers were arrested. The Kremlin has consistently denied that the vessel was carrying a secret cargo. It claims the ship was hijacked by criminals who demanded a £1m ransom. The official version was challenged by sources in Tel Aviv and Moscow who claimed the ship had been loaded with S-300 missiles, Russia's most advanced anti-aircraft weapon, while undergoing repairs in the Russian port of Kaliningrad. "Mossad, which closely monitors arms supplies to Iran, is said to have tipped off the Russian government that the shipment had been sold by former military officers linked to the underworld. The Kremlin then ordered a naval rescue mission which involved destroyers and submarines. Any evidence that the Kremlin had let advanced weaponry fall into the hands of criminals or be sold to Iran would be highly embarrassing, so military officials believe a "cover story" was concocted. "The official version is ridiculous and was given to allow the Kremlin to save face," said a Russian military source. "I've spoken to people close to the investigation and they've pretty much confirmed Mossad's involvement. It's laughable to believe all this fuss was over a load of timber. I'm not alone in believing that it was carrying weapons to Iran." The alleged hijackers, four Estonians, two Russians and two Latvians, will go on trial in Moscow. According to the Kremlin's account, they boarded the Arctic Sea in the Baltic by claiming their inflatable craft was in trouble and then took over the ship at gunpoint. Sources in Moscow suggested Mossad may have played a part in the alleged hijacking by setting up a criminal gang, who were unlikely to have known anything about a secret cargo. "The best way for the Israelis to block the cargo from reaching Iran would have been to create a lot of noise around the ship," said a former army officer. "Once the news of the hijack broke, the game was up for the arms dealers. The Russians had to act. That's why I don't rule out Mossad being behind the hijacking. It stopped the shipment and gave the Kremlin a way out so that it can now claim it mounted a brilliant rescue mission." According to Israeli military sources, Israel received intelligence that weapons bound for Iran were being loaded in Kaliningrad, a port notorious for gun runners. "A decision was then taken to inform the Kremlin," said the source. Had the S-300 missiles been delivered, Iran would have significantly strengthened its air defences. An Israeli air force source said that in the event of an attack on Iranian nuclear installations, such missiles could increase Israeli casualties by 50%. Since the Arctic Sea was retaken, Russia has imposed a security blackout. The hijackers, the crew and two investigative teams were flown back to Moscow in three Il-76 air freight planes. For more than a week after being freed the crew were not allowed to talk to their families. The captain and three crew are still on board the ship, which has resumed its voyage to Algeria, but they have not been able to call home. Last week Mikhail Voitenko, an outspoken piracy expert who disputed the Kremlin's original version of events, fled Russia, claiming he had received threats from an official angered by his statements. Admiral Tarmo Kouts, former commander of Estonia's armed forces and the European Union's rapporteur on piracy, has infuriated Moscow by saying the only plausible explanation of the mystery is that the ship was transporting weapons. A spokesman for the Finnish owners denied that missiles could have been secretly loaded onto the ship. Sources who suspect Mossad's involvement point to a visit to Moscow by Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, the day after the Arctic Sea was rescued. Peres held four hours of private talks with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president. Although the Israeli foreign ministry would not be drawn on the Arctic Sea, it confirmed that the two leaders had discussed the sale of Russian weapons to countries hostile to Israel. According to Israeli officials, Peres received verbal guarantees from the Russians that they would not sell advanced weapons systems to Iran or Syria. "Clearly the Israelis played a role in the whole Arctic Sea saga," said a Russian military source. "Peres used the incident as a bargaining chip over the issue of arms sales to Arab states, while Israel allowed the Kremlin a way out with its claims to have successfully foiled a piracy incident."

DTN News: 3 Britons Convicted In Plot To Bomb Planes

DTN News: 3 Britons Convicted In Plot To Bomb Planes
*British Muslims planned to bring down at least seven trans-Atlantic flights in what would have been the bloodiest terror attack since Sept. 11, 2001
*Source: DTN News / AP David Stringer (NSI News Source Info) LONDON, England - September 8, 2009: Three British Muslims were convicted Monday of plotting to kill thousands by downing at least seven trans-Atlantic airliners in simultaneous attacks designed by al-Qaida to be the deadliest terrorist strike since Sept. 11, 2001. Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, Assad Sarwar, 29, and Tanvir Hussain, 28 were found guilty at Woolwich Crown Court in London of leading a plan to detonate bombs on aircraft bound for the United States and Canada, using liquid explosives hidden in soda bottles. Four other men were acquitted of conspiring to bomb airliners, but admitted lesser charges — and in one case conspiracy to murder. An eighth man was cleared completely. The case brought sweeping new restrictions for air passengers, including limits on the amount of liquids and gels they can take carry on board. British and U.S. security officials said the plan was directly linked to al-Qaida and guided by senior Islamic militants in Pakistan. Authorities estimate that, if successful, about 2,000 passengers would have died. Had the bombs been detonated over U.S. and Canadian cities, hundreds more would have been killed on the ground. Britain's Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the plot would have brought “murder and mayhem on an unimaginable scale.” Other officials said the political repercussions would have been immense — likely destroying relations between London and Washington. The case may spur new concerns over the U.S. visa waiver program, which allows citizens of many European Union countries — including Britain— to fly to the United States without visas. Police officials said they believe the plotters were just days away from mounting their attacks when officers rounded up 25 people in 2006. The arrests led to travel chaos as hundreds of jetliners were grounded across Europe. Prosecutors said the suspects had identified as targets seven flights from London's Heathrow airport to New York, Washington, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and two to Chicago. Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told the Senate in 2007 the plot “would have been on a par, or something similar to 9/11.” The plotters planned to assemble bombs in airplane toilets using hydrogen peroxide-based explosives injected into soda bottles, prosecutors said. Britain's MI5 spy agency believes the group planned to strike as many as 18 jetliners in two waves of bombings, and to provoke further panic with attacks on U.K. power stations. Police say some would-be second-wave suicide bombers have likely evaded arrest. Investigations into the secondary plots — and hopes of gathering evidence to link the cell to specific terrorists in Pakistan — were curtailed as U.S. officials became increasingly nervous and ordered the arrest of one of the group's key accomplices in Pakistan. Rashid Rauf, a British-born baker's son, is said by intelligence officials to have been the key link between the U.K. and militants in Pakistan. Mr. Rauf was arrested in the central Pakistani city of Bahawalpur in early August 2006. Peter Clarke, head of British counterterrorism policing at the time, said Mr. Rauf's arrest was a surprise to London. Worried the plotters would rush forward their plans, police rounded up dozens of suspects in hasty dawn raids on August 10, 2006. Former U.S. homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff has denied there was any rift with London, but other U.S. officials acknowledge the White House was jittery. “Given what happened on 9/11, and that this airliner plot was headed in our direction, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some here advocated taking action sooner rather than later,” said a U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case. Mr. Rauf escaped from custody in December 2007. He was the target of an American drone strike in November 2008 but intelligence officials in the U.S. and Britain say they remain unsure whether he is dead or alive. In Britain, six plotters used a dank row house in eastern London to record “martyrdom” videos. “The time has come for you to be destroyed,” Ali, the British organizer of the plot, said in one film, directing his anger at the American and British public. The defendants argued in court that they were filming a documentary, and had also planned a stunt involving small explosions to expose supposed Western oppression of Muslims. Jurors found Umar Islam, 31, guilty of conspiracy to murder, but could not decide if he was involved in targeting aircraft. They found three other men — Ibrahim Savant, 28, Arafat Waheed Khan, 28 and Waheed Zaman, 25 — not guilty of planning to blow up airliners, but could not reach verdicts on whether they were guilty of conspiracy to murder. All four had pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. An eighth man — Donald Stewart-Whyte, 23 — was cleared of all charges. His lawyers have called for a government apology. The trial was the second in a case that has frustrated prosecutors. Last year, Ali, Sarwar and Hussain were convicted of conspiracy to murder, but the jury could not reach a verdict on whether they targeted aircraft. Judge Richard Henriques said he would sentence the men on Sept. 14. A test run was planned for the weekend of August 12, 2006, when one plotter planned to smuggle a liquid bomb kit on to an airliner, said a senior police official, who demanded anonymity to discuss details not presented to the court. He said the actual attacks were likely to have taken place the week of August 14, 2006. Though police concede the group hadn't managed to produce a viable bomb at the time of their arrests, or purchased airline tickets security officials insist the group was ready to strike. “We believe that they were days away, no more than a week” said the senior police official. He said the group was fine-tuning its explosives mix. Mr. Sarwar flew to Islamabad in June 2006, likely to discuss final details with al-Qaida organizers, the police official said. Investigators believe Abu Ubaidah al-Masri, an Egyptian regarded by both U.S. and British intelligence as a senior al-Qaida figure in Pakistan, was the key organizer of the plot. Mr. al-Masri, who died of hepatitis in Pakistan in December 2007, is also suspected of a role in orchestrating the July 7, 2005 bombing attacks on London, which killed 52 subway and bus commuters. Prosecutor Peter Wright told the court the plotters in Britain were “entirely under the control and direction of Pakistan.”

DTN News: Russia, Belarus Start West 2009 Military Exercise

DTN News: Russia, Belarus Start West 2009 Military Exercise
*Source: DTN News / RIA Novosti (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - September 8, 2009: Russia and Belarus are starting a large-scale military exercise involving about 12,500 service personnel and up to 200 items of military equipment and hardware, the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday. The drill, called Zapad 2009 (West 2009), takes place in Russia and Belarus and will end on September 29. "The exercise plan was developed jointly by the Russian and Belarusian Armed Forces General Staffs and is purely defensive," the ministry said, adding that tasks to be practiced include dealing with armed conflicts, natural and man-caused disasters and ensuring strategic deterrence as well as Union State security. The ex-Soviet neighbors announced plans in the late 1990s to form a union state in a bid to achieve greater political, economic and military integration, but the project has been largely on paper. The exercise will, among other things, rehearse interoperability within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian integrated air defense system, which the two countries agreed to establish recently. Russia is represented in particular by the Moscow Military District units, Ground Forces, Air Force, Air Defense Forces, Airborne Troops and Baltic Fleet naval task forces, and Belarus by operational command units, Interior Ministry, Emergencies Ministry and State Security Committee troops. The exercise will involve 5,000-6,000 Russian servicemen and 7,000-8,000 Belarusian servicemen, as well as up to 40 aircraft.