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Al Qaeda Makes its Move with a Video Primer by Hamza bin Laden

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Al Qaeda has stepped out of the shadow of Islamic State, promoting its brand of terror with a new leader and a comprehensive list of attack priorities.

Hamza bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s son and heir, released a ten-minute video labeled “Advice for Martyrdom-Seekers in the West” on May 14[1]. The video comes at an opportune time for al-Qaeda, after months of media coverage of the ever-shrinking ISIS hold in Syria and Iraq. Whether the video catalyzed attacks in Manchester or London is unknown, but it is expected to ratchet up the frequency of so-called lone wolf or inspired attacks in the West in coming weeks. Understanding this video and analyzing Hamza’s messages are key to countering the threats coming from the al-Qaeda (AQ), particularly at a time when AQ has been rebranding itself and widening its network among Salafist jihadi rings.

Hamza, born in 1984, is considered by core AQ cadre as the ‘Crown Prince of Terror,’ based on the letters confiscated from the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound. Apparently, Osama was preparing Hamza to be his heir following the death of Hamza’s older brother, Saad, in 2009 by a U.S. drone strike[2]. Clearly, step by step, Hamza is being prepared for the job. For Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and expert on al-Qaeda, Hamza is “a poster kid for the Al-Qaeda … and for members of Al-Qaeda, who were indoctrinated with these propaganda videos, he means a lot to them.[3]”

AQ top leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, formally anointed Hamza as an official member of the terrorist group on August 14, 2015, in an audio message in which Hamza bin Laden also called for attacks in Western capitals including lone-wolf attacks against the U.S., French, and Israeli targets[4]. In another AQ video titled,  “We Are All Osama,” Hamza threatened the U.S. on July 9, 2016 by promising revenge and warned Americans that “we will continue striking you and targeting you in your country and abroad in response to your oppression of the people of Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and the rest of the Muslim lands that did not survive your oppression.[5]” The U.S. Department of State designated Hamza bin Laden as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT)”[6] like his father used to be on January 5, 2017.

Hamza’s new video “Advice for Martyrdom-Seekers in the West” is critically important for several reasons, foremost of which is the way it showcases previous, legendary AQ attacks which are considered extremely successful by the terrorist group. Second, Hamza pointedly gives explicit references to al-Qaeda’s core ideology and its literature by frequently citing the Quran and Hadiths, thus paving a concrete ideological groundwork for future attacks. Furthermore, Hamza encourages al-Qaeda base to carry out attacks for the reasons he lists in an effort to justify violence and terror. He continues by listing the possible targets deemed as having priority by the terrorist organization and finishes the video by emphasizing the importance of conveying the al-Qaeda’s global message.

The video starts by honoring al-Qaeda legends who carried out critical attacks in the past by providing related background videos. They include Sayyid Nosair, an American of Egyptian descent, convicted of links to the New York City landmark bomb plot and who was accused but acquitted of the assassination of Meir Kahane, a Jewish right-wing Israeli politician on November 5, 1990[7]; Sulaiman Khater, an Egyptian terrorist who shot dead seven Israeli tourists in Sinai, Egypt in 1985 whom Zawahiri praised as “an example to follow for the zealous and free in the Egyptian army[8]“;  Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Arid Uka, an Albanian terrorist who shot and killed two U.S. airmen at Frankfurt Airport in 2011[9];  Ayman Hassan, who killed Israeli soldiers and civilians. Adebolajo and Adebowale, who were murderers of Fusilier Lee Rigby, British Army soldier, on May 22, 2013, in London[10];  and Mohammed Bouyeri, the Moroccan-Dutch terrorist, who killed the Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004[11]. Bin Laden gives special attention to Mevlut Mert Altintas, who shot and killed the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, in front of the cameras in an art exhibit event on December 19, 2016, in Ankara, Turkey. [12] Fully one-third of Bin Laden’s video is dedicated to special effects and edited videos and the verbatim speech of Altintas.

These referenced names are accompanied by an audio track of chanting and related silhouette videos in the background, as the title enters briefly and the video starts with reference to “Sheikh Hamza Osama bin Laden” on the left side of the screen, citing regular spiritual praises while showing a screen grab from FOX NEWS about the attack by U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, MD, MPH, who killed thirteen people and injured thirty-two others in the Fort Hood, TX mass shooting rampage on November 5, 2009[13]. Hamza continues by addressing and greeting the “valiant heroes of Islam… in America, the West, and in occupied Palestine…” and goes on explaining the purpose of the video by stating “this is a legacy (will or advice) for anyone who intends to carry out a martyrdom operation.”

Hamza’s narrative continues with ample reference to scripture by encouraging the attackers in the West to “purify their intentions” and reminding them that “help comes from Allah” as long as the future attackers’ intentions are pure. He provides diverse supporting religious arguments with reference to Salafist literature to increase the morale of the potential suicide attackers. Hamza gives Salafist reasoning for terrorist attacks by asking his followers to “Trust in Allah, and do not fear…, ask your Lord for success, increase your remembrance of Allah; there is no help or power except from Allah.” Hamza justifies violence by referencing scripture and relies on Salafist teachings in an effort to persuade the AQ base that what they are doing is right based on AQ’s version of Salafist ideology.

Hamza then continues referencing the current conflict zones in the Middle East in an effort to explain AQ’s terror by citing worldly reasoning familiar to Arab tribal culture: “take your revenge for the sake of your religion, for your Prophet (peace be upon him), for the children of al-Sham, for the widows of Palestine, for the honorable women of Iraq, for the orphans of Afghanistan and with that get accepted to the highest grade (and gardens) of the paradise.”

After explaining why AQ members need to take their revenge, Hamza then explains to potential AQ supporters in the West how to carry out their attacks, priorities for their attention, how they should choose their targets and what kind of weapons they should use. He asks his followers to “accomplish your goals with utmost secrecy. Attain the highest level of perfection in your actions, exercise utmost care and caution and prepare diligently to inflict crippling losses on those who have disbelieved.” Hamza also requests possible attackers to benefit from the “Inspire Magazine” for their deeds and actions. He goes on asking the future AQ attackers to precisely and impeccably choose their targets to inflict the most damage. “Choose your weapons professionally. You don’t have to use a military weapon. If you can reach a gun, it is the best, if not, there are many other options.”

After providing tactics, he encourages his followers by asking them to “follow the footsteps of the previous martyrdom-seekers before you. Continue from where they left.” Important to note is that he explains how effective, one-person operations in the West have outweighed in impact numerous operations in the East. The implication should be grasped by security planners in Europe: expect more attacks in the EU zone or the United States. Hamza, in order to emphasize the importance of the attacks in the West, states that AQ followers who already live in the West don’t need to migrate, because carrying out attacks on Jews and Crusaders where they live in the West is more worrisome and severe for the enemy.

After underlining and highlighting the importance of the attacks in the West and providing the ideological reasoning for the proposed attacks, Hamza prioritizes the types of targets as follows:

  • Transgressors against our religion and Prophet,
  • Look out for Jewish interests,
  • if not available, target the American interests,
  • if not available, target the NATO countries’ interests,
  • If not available, target Russian interests as they had forgotten what they tasted in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

He then continues by strongly advising his followers to convey a clear message to the media and to explain the reasons behind their attacks also by stating “it is absolutely imperative that people should understand the objective of your operation.”

He again lists the messages that AQ emphasizes and urges the importance of conveying the following messages to the West:

  • Our religion and our Prophet are the red lines. (Remember Charlie Hebdo?)
  • Palestine is a cause of our Islamic Hence, anyone who supports Jewish occupiers shall never dream of peace.
  • Sham is a cause of our Islamic Ummah, where our people are facing genocide. Anyone involved in operations against our people or aid to Bashar [Assad] and his allies shall not escape punishment.
  • Our holy lands (Mecca and Medina) are occupied. We shall continue to target the occupiers until they withdraw their forces from the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Our airspace is violated; our wealth and resources are expropriated. Thus we shall deal with you reciprocally until you stop interfering in our affairs.

After listing the messages that need to be conveyed, Hamza starts to talk about important tactics needed to be considered before and during the attacks. He says, for example, “’Once you select your target, investigate carefully’, ‘gather as much as information you can and adopt appropriate cover to disguise yourself’, ‘know your target inside out, so that you may inflict damage far beyond anything the enemy has ever imagined’, ‘take care of yourself, take time to relax before the operation so that your performance is optimal and your alertness level high.’” As Hamza lists these qualities and tactics, the video screen shows the video recordings of a Turkish police officer murdering the Russian Ambassador to Turkey by citing “the lion, Mevlut Mert Altintas killed the Russian Ambassador to Turkey.” This segment showcases this attack and presents the attacker as a model for the rest of the AQ members. Hamza continues to emphasize the qualities and tactics by stating: “’make appropriate use of the element of surprise, take lead in inflicting losses’; ‘the most important gains are acquired in the first attempt of the attack’; ‘make sure of the best use of your weapons’; ‘having read these instructions, be self-assured, composed, and hope for the best.’”

Finally, at the end of his speech, Hamza asks his followers to “put your trust in Allah, be generous with your life (don’t think of saving yourself)” basically asking future terrorists to commit suicide or consider dying during their attacks, as this life is not worth anything compared to the hereafter. He then prays for the future attackers by invoking scripture: “’May Allah give you victory, assist you, guide you,’ ‘the final meeting is in the Paradise.’”

The video lasts ten minutes and twelve seconds. It is professionally cut and edited. As it was released, it was translated into numerous languages and rereleased with embedded subtitles. AQ members shared this video in different social media platforms, particularly in their telegram-application chat rooms or private channels. The video is still available on the internet, including in the YouTube and other social media platforms. One may assume that all AQ supporters around the world have watched this video since it was narrated by Osama bin Laden’s son and conveys essential messages.

Implications

A reasonable conclusion is that Hamza is being fronted as the next world leader of AQ. Based on the sequence of the events, including Osama bin Laden grooming Hamza as his heir, Ayman al-Zawahiri introducing him in a widely-spread video and finally Hamza by himself addressing AQ’s support base and followers and asking them to carry out attacks in the West, strongly indicates that Hamza bin Laden is being groomed for AQ leadership in the near future, at least after the death or retirement of Ayman al-Zawahiri. However, there is no doubt that he has already an esteemed and respected position in the hierarchy of the terrorist organization. Undeniably, Hamza has the advantage of being the son of the founder of al-Qaeda and through his father, he has unquestionable authority over the terrorist organization.

Hamza in his address openly spoke to the AQ base without distinguishing sub-groups operating under AQ. Al-Qaeda has become the world’s largest Salafist jihadi terrorist group, functioning as an umbrella tied to several regional AQ sub-groups and affiliates such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and in addition to many other indirect affiliates including Fatah al-Islam, Turkistan Islamic Party and Jemaah Islamiyah. Additionally, organizations such as the al-Nusra Front or Jabhat al-Nusra (formerly al-Qaeda in Syria or al-Qaeda in the Levant), or with its new name after July 2016 “the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham,” a critical player in Syria,  will also submit to the orders of Hamza, even if they claim they are distancing themselves from the AQ core, which is more like rebranding the al-Qaeda in Syria and a tactic established for the aftermaths of the fight against ISIS.

Additionally, it is worth noting that AQ has been taking advantage of the attention and heat that ISIS has drawn around the world and broadening its base around the world without getting much attention and getting ready for the near future basically for the aftermaths of ISIS’s defeat. There is no doubt that the AQ affiliates will try to fill the space emptied by ISIS. It should also be expected that AQ most probably will invite and accept defecting ISIS fighters to its cadres. Considering the fact that many ISIS fighters fleeing the battlefields of Syria do not have many options, joining AQ might become one of the viable considerations not only for ideological reasons but also to save their lives. There are rumors that AQ has already ordered its commanders to accept ISIS fighters (not senior level ISIS members or leadership) in an effort to increase their presence in the regions where they shelter and the number of the fighters they hold at bases.

There is no doubt that many al-Qaeda members and sympathizers will take this call seriously by attempting to carry out attacks. There will be two implications.

The first is that the AQ leadership is going to order the cells they control around the West to carry out attacks through an effort to prove that Hamza bin Laden’s orders are being followed. The second is the fact that many individuals who believe in AQ or have ties to its ideology will feel called to carry out attacks based on the Salafist teachings. The first lesson AQ fighters or Salafist jihadi terrorists receive is “to hear and obey” and the second lesson they study is “carrying out the orders of their leaders regardless of the conditions.[14]” After combining these two principles, it is highly likely that there will be several new attacks attributed to Hamza bin Laden.

Additionally, Hamza did not openly ask for suicide attacks but rather asked his followers to consider their options by asking them to carry out attacks with weapons if possible as their first choice, therefore providing endless possibilities for his followers. Also, it is possible that we might see some attacks which will be carried out without the central hierarchy of the AQ. If the attackers cannot successfully convey their messages as Hamza asked, and if the perpetrators successfully hid their ties with any AQ affiliates, the law enforcement and counter-terrorism officers might have hard times to tie some attacks to AQ.

Hamza clearly listed the enemies. Particularly, the law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the West must consider the enemy list very seriously and prioritize the protection of listed targets. It is essential that obvious targets are warned about the true nature of possible threats and local law enforcement establish communication mediums with possible targets in an effort to reduce risks or to reach out to each other as soon as possible when needed. While the target list might be wide, in most cases local law enforcement and intelligence agencies can produce prioritized local threat lists and in this case protection of those targets become more important particularly in the upcoming days as the execution of possible attacks could start anytime based on what Hamza asked and prioritized.

Finally, security officials should note that the video highlighted the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey by Mevlut Mert Altintas, a Turkish police officer. The video segments dedicated to this assassination accounted for three minutes, one-third of the whole video. Evidently, AQ gave great importance to this attack. We can also understand this by the fact that only Mevlut was referred to as the “lion” of al-Qaeda in the video whereas all other attackers in the past were referred to with their names. Undoubtedly, the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Ankara and the assassin have risen as stars of al-Qaeda’s legend.

Interestingly, the Turkish Government furiously denied the involvement of AQ in this attack. This video certainly refutes the regime’s denials and efforts to link Mevlut to other groups[15]. It is also essential to acknowledge that, particularly after the July 2016 coup attempt, AQ and some other Salafist-jihadi radical groups have found refuge in the Turkish bureaucracy. For example, Nurettin Yildiz, a preacher known for his close ties with the Erdogan regime, who also had an association with the assassin has a large base of supporters, most of whom are government officers[16]. Similarly, Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) a Turkish NGO with close ties to Erdogan, has been linked to several Salafist jihadi groups. In fact, the IHH was investigated by the Turkish National Police because of its ties to the AQ and because it was providing logistical support to al-Qaeda members in Syria. The police raided IHH warehouses in Kilis Turkey during an operation in 2014[17]. Consequently, the current thick presence of al-Qaeda in Turkey and Turkey’s somewhat favorable approach[18] to this terrorist organization increases the risks, particularly towards the European countries.

First published in MD’s partner International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

References

[1] “Hamza Usame bin Ladin: “Batıdaki Fedailere Nasihat” Tr Altyazılı,” YouTube, May 15, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLriGlNCh68&feature=youtu.be & “Advice for Martyrdom-Seekers in the West-Hamza Bin Laden,” Tangentcode, May 15, 2017, https://tangentcode.org/2017/05/15/advice-for-martyrdom-seekers-in-the-west/

[2] Burleigh, Michael, “What next for Brand bin Laden?” The Telegraph, May 14, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/8512008/What-next-for-Brand-Bin-Laden.html

[3] Editorial, “Bin Laden’s son wants to avenge his father, ex-FBI agent says,” CBS News, May 12, 2017, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/preview-the-bin-laden-documents/

[4] “State Department Terrorist Designation of Hamza bin Laden,” U.S. Department of State, January 5, 2017, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266536.htm

[5] Alabed, Asma, “Bin Laden’s son threatens revenge for father’s assassination: monitor,” Reuters, July 11, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-security-qaeda-idUSKCN0ZQ0AA

[6] “State Department Terrorist Designation of Hamza bin Laden,” U.S. Department of State, January 5, 2017, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266536.htm

[7] Weiser, Benjamin, “Man Convicted in Terrorism Conspiracy Is Denied New Trial,” the New York Times, January 13, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/nyregion/el-sayyid-a-nosair-killer-of-rabbi-kahane-is-denied-new-trial.html

[8] Editorial, “Zawahri urges attacks on Israeli, Western targets,” Reuters, January 6, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-37313620090107

[9] Editorial, “Kosovan Albanian admits killing two US airmen in Frankfurt terror attack,” the Guardian, August 31, 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/31/kosovan-albanian-admits-killing-airmen

[10] Editorial, “Manchester Day Parade tribute to Lee Rigby,” BBC, June 2, 2013, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-22745387

[11] Editorial, “Van Gogh killer jailed for life,” BBC, July 26, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4716909.stm

[12] Speckhard, A., & Yayla, A. S. “What It Means That the Russian Ambassador To Turkey Was Assassinated By A Radicalized Militant Jihadi Off‐Duty Turkish Police Officer,” the Huffington Post, January 1, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-it-means-that-the-russian-ambassador-to-turkey_us_586fd7e9e4b08052400ee1f4

[13] Kenber, Billy, “Nidal Hasan sentenced to death for Fort Hood shooting rampage,” the Washington Post, August 28, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nidal-hasan-sentenced-to-death-for-fort-hood-shooting-rampage/2013/08/28/aad28de2-0ffa-11e3-bdf6-e4fc677d94a1_story.html?utm_term=.09b818c5cdb6

[14] Speckhard, A., & Yayla, A. S. (2016). ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate: Advances Press, LLC.

[15] Yayla, Ahmet, S., “Anxiety in Ankara: Assassination, Geopolitics, and Democracy in Turkey,” Modern Diplomacy, January 5, 2017, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2086:anxiety-in-ankara-assassination-geopolitics-and-democracy-in-turkey&Itemid=154

[16] Yayla, A.S., “Turkey’s Crippled Counterterrorist Capacity: How Domestic Purges Represent an International Threat to Europe’s Security” Modern Diplomacy, March 2, 2017, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2306:turkey-s-crippled-counterterrorist-capacity-how-domestic-purges-represent-an-international-threat-to-europe-s-security&Itemid=154

[17] Editorial, “Turkish police raid charity aiding Syria,” al-Jazeera, January 14, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/01/turkish-police-raid-charity-aiding-syria-201411411543616402.html

[18] Yayla, Ahmet, S., “The Reina Nightclub Attack and the Islamic State Threat to Turkey” CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Vol 10, Issue 3, pp. 9-16, March 2017

Ahmet S. Yayla is an assistant professor at the DeSales University Homeland Security Department and faculty member at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. He is also a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University. Dr. Yayla previously served as a full professor and the chair of the Department of Sociology at Harran University in Turkey. Dr. Yayla is a 20-year veteran of the counterterrorism and operations department in the Turkish National Police and served as the chief of counterterrorism in Sanliurfa, Turkey between 2010 and 2013.

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Under False Pretenses: Who Directed the Assassin to Kill the Russian Ambassador in Turkey in 2016?

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Motivation for the assassination of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, remains shrouded in mystery five years after off-duty Turkish police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas committed the crime during the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara on December 19, 2016. Chaos ensued when Altintas (circled in the photo below) calmly pulled out his duty gun and fired at least eight rounds, shouting in Arabic and Turkish, “Allahu Akbar! Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay the price.”

Speculation about why Altintas acted as he did have run the gamut, but three theories have come to the forefront. First, Turkish government officials blame the Gulen movement, which they designated as a terrorist organization right after the suspicious July 15, 2016, coup attempt. Second, Altintas, who was opposed to increasing economic ties between Turkey and Russia and opposed to Russia’s support for the Assad regime in Syria, operated as a lone actor. Third, suspicion has been cast on the Kurds who are fighting against ISIS. The leaders of both Turkey and Russia were prudent in their statements after the assassination. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said,“I describe this attack on Russia’s embassy as an attack to Turkey, Turkey’s state and nation,” while President Vladimir Putin said that “the crime was a “provocation designed to spoil” relations between Russia and Turkey and “derail the peace process in Syria.”

As might have been expected, the Second Heavy Penal Court of Ankara, which announced its verdict in the assassination case on March 9, 2021, said that the Gulen movement was complicit in Karlov’s death. Russia and experts of the Western world, however, do not support the Turkish government’s theory. This article attempts to shed light on the indictmentsTurkey issued in the Karlov case and delves into questions related to the Gulen theory and the lone-actor theory that need to be reinvestigated. The Kurdish theory is not addressed here because no evidence exists to even suggest that such a scenario is plausible.

Turkey’s Accusations in the Indictment

Like it had done with other investigations of notable attacks in Turkey since the anti-corruption scandals came to light in late 2013, the court accused Fethullah Gulen and his movement of plotting the assassination of Karlov and persuading Altintas to commit the crime. Before examining the details of Karlov’s indictment, however, it is necessary to explain how the Turkish justice system works and why the investigation and prosecution of notable attacks always have the same scapegoats: former police officers, former military personnel, and Gulenists. The December 2013 anti-corruption investigations, which used solid evidence to implicate Erdogan, his family members, and Erdogan’s cabinet, is a prime example. Erdogan accused allegedly Gulenist police officers to plot a scheme to overthrow the government and oust Erdogan from power. Furious about such an unconvincing plan, Erdogan responded by launching a retaliatory crackdown against the Gulenists and subjecting all members of the movement to relentless oppression.

Erdogan’s implacable grudge against Gulen has harmed the credibility of Turkey’s justice system because, now, every investigation is directed to conclude that Gulenists were somehow the perpetrators. This hijacking of the Turkish justice system helps to explain why Turkey was ranked near the bottom of the constraints on government powers category in the 2020Rule of Law Index. The World Justice Project compiles the index each year and reflects how the influential nonprofit civil society organization perceives 128 countries’ adherence to the rule of law. Turkey ranked 124th on the list.

The government’s disregard for the rule of law in Turkey has meant the demise of bottom-up investigations that aimed to collect evidence and then identify the suspect and the rise of top-down investigations that name the suspect first and then fabricate evidence against the predetermined suspect. Prosecutors now routinely use copy-and-paste indictments filled with fabricated evidence presented by intelligence officials. Prosecutors who were opposed to the directives promulgated by Erdogan and his government were accused of being members of a terrorist organization and then put in jail. The indictments prepared after the 2013anti-corruption scandals were no different and include many contradictions that Western countries consider to be suspicious.

Suspicious Investigations by Turkey’s Judicial System

An examination of how the prosecution and conviction systems work in Turkey suggests a pattern of subterfuge that undermines the credibility of the government’s indictment of Altintas for the assassination of Karlov. That pattern involves the use of fabricated and dubious evidence and the statements of secret so-called witnesses provided by intelligence officials and the police for the sole purpose of indicting a perceived enemy of the government. Prosecutors are complicit in the charade, signing the bogus indictments and referring them to the court without question.

The police investigation that targeted members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a case in point. During this investigation, the police collected solid evidence about the spying activities of IRGC members in Turkey and how they had targeted the U.S. Consulate in Turkey. The government, however, ignored the evidence and shut down the investigation. In another case, the government shutdown a police investigation that targeted the Tahsiye Group, an al Qaeda-affiliated organization led by Mehmet Dogan. Dogan had become a target of the law enforcement when, during a speech, he praised Osama Bin Laden and told his followers that they have a binding duty (fardh) to join Osama Bin Laden’s army in Afghanistan. In a third case, the government relentlessly punished the police investigators who examined several trucks that belonged to Turkey’s Intelligence Office. The investigators found that the trucks contained arms and explosives destined for jihadist groups in Syria. Despite solid evidence and video footage showing arms hidden inside the trucks, the government shut down the case. In yet another case, the government shut down the December 17 and 25, 2013 anti-corruption investigations that implicated Erdogan, his family, and members of his cabinet. Reza Zarrab, the money launderer for the corrupt government officials, transported$20 billion to Iran on a route through Turkey at a time when the European Union and the United States had imposed embargoes on Iran for its ambition to possess nuclear weapons. The police had proved that Zarrab was giving bribes worth millions of euros and dollars to Turkey’s bureaucrats and ministers, but the government disregarded the evidence and released Zarrab and his accomplices. Zarrab, however, was arrested in the United States on March 19, 2016. At Zarrab’s trial, the U.S. prosecutors were able to use all of the evidence—including wiretappings—that the Turkish police had collected within the scope of their corruption investigations from three years ago and which the Turkish government alleged that they had been fabricated by the Turkish police investigators. A fifth case involves the conviction of police officers who allegedly had ignored the killing of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul in 2007. The court announced its verdict on March 2021; however, Dink’s family and the family’s lawyers believed that the investigation had overlooked critical elements and were not satisfied with the court’s decision. The common thread that ties these five cases together is the government’s adamant contention—despite clear evidence to the contrary—that all the defendants were Gulenists who deserved lengthy, and even lifelong, prison sentences. 

The outcome of the government’s investigation of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt differed slightly from its usual strategy. This time, the government accused not only Gulenists but also Americans of plotting the failed coup. Evidence uncovered since then, however, indicates the July 15 coup attempt was one of the most suspicious events of Turkey’s history. Some high level politicians in Turkey have said that Erdogan knew about the coup in advance and did not try to stop it because he believed the fallout from a coup would be to his benefit. The coup, therefore, was not a failed coup but rather a fake coup. The author’s previous articles about the coup emphasizes the idea that a small group of military personnel who were provoked into staging a badly orchestrated coup and paid a colossal cost for doing so, as Erdogan used the event to undermine Turkey’s democracy and turn a democracy into an authoritarian regime.

Details and Questions from the Altintas Indictment

The prosecutor accused 28 suspects in a 600-page indictment and concluded that Gulen was the number one suspect. According to the indictment, the prosecutor made the following accusations:

  • Altintas joined religious meetings of Gulenists before the December 17 and 25, 2013, corruption scandals.
  • An SD card (provided by an anonymous witness) contained encrypted content identified Altintas as a Gulenist and noted that Altintas broke his ties with Gulenists after the December 17 and 25, 2013, corruption scandals.
  • Gulenists directed Altintas to infiltrate and join the radical Islamist group Sosyal DokuVakfi (SDV-Social Fabric Association). The prosecutor based this accusation on the radical slogans Altintas uttered when he assassinated Karlov, believing that Altintas wanted to draw attention away from Gulenists and create the perception that ISIS and al Qaeda were to blame for the assassination.
  • Gulenists created a plan to kill the Russian ambassador (i.e., Karlov) in 2016. The prosecutor based this accusation on an inference he made from one episode in a movie series broadcast in 2014 on a Gulenist media outlet. It was in that episode that a fictitious ambassador was killed.
  • Some Gulenists, using a virtual private network, tapped into the social media accounts of Altintas in Northern Cyprus and then deleted some information and made alterations to those accounts.
  • Altintas met with several Gulenist suspects and was directed to kill Karlov. The prosecutor based this accusation on the results from Historical Traffic Search (HTS) data.

The following questions still need to be answered:

  • Was Altintas really a Gulenist police officer? For example, one of the police reports concluded that Altintas and his family had no relations with the Gulen movement during the time when Altintas killed Karlov. In addition, the Gulenists firmly rejected the idea that Altintas was a member of the movement when he killed Karlov and said that no evidence exists that members of the movement has used violence even though they have been harshly oppressed and all their assets confiscated.
  • Why did the prosecutor not investigate Altintas’ radicalization and his association with suspects linked to al Qaeda?
  • Why did the prosecutor ignore Altintas’ relationships with SDV, a Salafi radical association?
  • Why did the prosecutor fail to identify any suspects after allegedly uncovering some suspicious IP addresses in Northern Cyprus?
  • After examining 30 minutes of HTS  data captured from 500 meters (1,640 feet) away and used for signals intelligence, how did the prosecutor come to a specific conclusion about several individual suspects when the duration of the captured data was short and hundreds of thousands of people were in the area from which the data were obtained?
  • Why did the prosecutor not investigate the person who called Karlov’s wife, Marina, before the assassination? In her statement to the prosecutor, Marina Karlov said that she received a mysterious phone call on December 14 or 15, 2016,from Moscow, in which the caller wanted to know whether her husband had bodyguards to protect him.
  • Why did the prosecutor not question one of the witnesses, Abdulkadir Sen, who was affiliated with al Qaeda and whose brother, Ibrahim Sen, was being held in the Guantanamo Bay prison because of his linkages with al Qaeda? U.S. authorities had accused the Sen brothers of transferring $600,000 to al Shabaab in 2012 and, in 2014, British and French investigators asked Turkish authorities for information about the Sen brothers. When investigators first questioned Enes Asim Silin, one of the witnesses to the assassination of Karlov, Silin said that Altintas and Abdulkadir Sen met on October 8, 2016. Sometime later, Silin suspiciously changed his statement, saying that the two men did not meet on October 8, 2016.
  • Why did the prosecutor not question the weak security at the art museum where Karlov was killed? According to Marina Karlov, her husband went to the exhibition with nobody guard and weapon, and only one security officer (unarmed) was inside the building.
  • Why did Turkish officials fail to provide enhanced security inside the museum when they knew that demonstrations against Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict occurred just a few days before the assassination?
  • Why did not the prosecutor question the possibility of arresting Altintas alive? According to the prosecutor, Altintas entered the art museum at 6:31 p.m., followed by Karlov at 6:45 p.m. Altintas shot Karlov to death at 7:05 p.m., and the police arrived 20 minutes later, at 7:25 p.m. Altintas did not take his own life and instead waited for the police to come to the scene of the crime. Also according to the prosecutor, clashes between Altintas and the police ensued, and Altintas was killed by the police at 7:42 p.m. However, according to the statement of a police officer who took part in the clashes, Altintas fell to the ground, after which another police officer kicked the murder weapon away from the wounded Altintas, and then the police shot Altintasin his head several times. Altintas did not attempt to escape, nor did he attempt to hold anyone hostage. The police, however, chose to kill Altintasrather than capture him alive. The outcome raises the possibility that Altintas wanted to be silenced.

Now the Second Theory: Was Altintas a Lone Actor Inspired by al Qaeda Ideology?

The second theory contends that, in his effort to punish Russia for of its involvement in the Syrian conflict, Altintas acted on his own volition when he assassinated Karlov. Such lone-actor terrorism has been a threat to the world since the early 2010s. Individuals who engage in lone-actor terrorism operate according to their own timetable, are not directed by any terrorist leader or terrorist organization, and may be inspired by one or more radical ideologies. Most lone actors, however, have been inspired by ideologies of either al Qaeda or ISIS. Given that Altintas was a self-radicalized individual with close ties to SDV and given that the Syrian branch of al Qaeda, al Nusra Front,has claimed responsibility for Karlov’s assassination, proponents of the second theory believe that their interpretation of assassin’s motivation has more credibility than any other proposed theory.

Altintas’ Radicalization

Details in the prosecutor’s indictment of Altintas provides clues about how Altintas was self-radicalized. Various models explain how individuals are radicalized, and, according to one of them, radicalization is a four-step process: (1) pre-radicalization, (2) conversion and identification, (3) conviction and indoctrination, and (4) action. At the pre-radicalization step, according to the details of the indictment, Altintas’ introvert personality made him susceptible to being affected by the teachings of the Turkish radical Islamist Nurettin Yildiz. The indictment also noted that Atintas had complained about his family, telling friends that his family was not practicing Islam. According to Altintas family, he drank alcohol and was not a religious person until he attended the Turkish National Police Academy in 2012. In his second year in the academy, family members said, Altintas began to sympathize with radical religious groups and joined the religious programs offered by Yildiz.

At the conversion and identification step, the indictment indicates that in 2013, Altintas began to question his job and Turkey’s approach to Islam. For example, Altintas began to complain about his position as a police officer, telling his friends that it is not appropriate to work in a state until it is ruled by Islamic law, that he was planning to resign from his position as a police officer, and that he was against the democratic elections.

At the conviction and indoctrination step, Altintas seemed to have become an ardent believer in jihadist ideology. For example, Altintas shared extremist messages on a WhatsApp group about Syria and ISIS. He also used hate rhetoric against the United States and said that the United States was inflicting cruelty on the people in Islamic countries. Altintas also was followed the news in Syria and criticized Russian atrocities in Syria.

At the action step, Altintas sought to engage in deeds that would serve his ideology. For example, he wanted to travel to Syria, join a jihadist group, and become a martyr. He also became involved in donation programs that send money to Syria. When investigators examined Altitas’ computer, they discovered that he had downloaded a video in February 2016 titled “Al Qaeda: You Only Are Responsible Yourself,” which began with a speech by Osama bin Laden. Altintas’ computer also contained a draft email to mrtltns@gmail.com, dated July 27, 2015, that Altintas was preparing to be a martyr.

SDV and Salafism in Turkey

Turkey has been one of the top 10 countries with the most jihadists joining al Qaeda or ISIS groups in Syria. In 2015, more than 2,000 Turkish jihadists joined one of these terrorist organizations. Turkey’s government has been criticized for ignoring the activities of jihadist groups in Syria and for allowing the militants to use its borders freely not only to transfer militants but also money and logistics. In 2015, Russian authorities published satellite images purportedly showing Turkish trucks transporting oil from ISIS-controlled areas in Syria. 

Nurettin Yildiz, a retired imam and director of SDV, played an essential role in the radicalization of many individuals, including Altintas. Yildiz is known for his anti-Semitic and jihadist speeches. In one of those speeches, he said, “Jews are the symbols of brutality and enjoy killing of women and children.”Yildiz also is an advocate of Salafism in Turkey and regularly holds meetings and gives sermons on topics such as Salafi-interpreted jihadism and support for jihadists in Syria. He also is a fervent supporter of Erdogan and the AKP. As an example, a page on the SDV website and a google search on Yildiz bring photos of Yildiz with previously-investigated suspects for their roles in transferring arms and explosives to Syria.

After the assassination of Karlov, the al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria known as Fatah al-Sham Front (formerly al-Nusra Front) claimed responsibility for the assassination of Karlov in a letter the group published online. The letter talks about the “Revenge of Aleppo” and claims that Altintas was not only a riot police officer but also a member of the al-Nusra Front. Erdogan, however, said in a 2016 speech that al-Nusra Front is not a terrorist organization, only to reverse his stance two years later and designated the group as a terrorist organization.

To conclude, Turkey’s Second Heavy Penal Court of Ankara announced its verdict in the Karlov assassination casein March 2021, concluding that the Gulen movement was responsible for the crime. The court ignored an investigation report that said Altintas committed the crime as a radicalized lone actor with link to al Qaeda-affiliated individuals. The court’s decision appears to have been based on a government-directed investigation that declared an alleged perpetrator and then tried to find or fabricate evidence to fit its contrived scenario. In Russia and the Western world, the verdict has been deemed unsatisfactory. It is not realistic, of course, to expect reliable investigations and prosecutions under the current authoritarian regime in Turkey. Further investigation of the Karlov assassination is needed to determine who directed Altintas to kill the Russian ambassador, who was behind the government-directed investigations, who ignored potential evidence that could have led to the identification of the real culprits, who chose not to provide adequate protection for Karlov inside the exhibition, and who directed officers to kill Altintas at the crime scene even though it would have been possible to capture him alive.

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Covid 19 and Human Security in Anthropocene era

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Since the end of second World  the focus on international security has grown, not only state threats but also threats from non-state groups such as terrorism groups, cyber attacks, climate change and the environment and what we are living right now is the threat from Covid19 caused by the SARS virus -Cov2, up to the time this article was written has 136.609.182 cases, with the number of deaths 2948567, have killed more victims from the Vietnam War, the Gulf of Persia, the Afghanistan War. Although the optimistic hopes of finding  vaccine for Covid19 provide room for movement and bright light of hope in the future, it has almost entered the two-year mark since its initial presence in Wuhan, China last December 2019, Covid19 is still major concern and scourge for human survival in currently, many people in the world are tired of waiting for when this epidemic will end. Covid19 has become an invisible but real enemy felt by humankind in the early 21st century, more cunning than previous security threats such as physical warfare, trade wars, terrorism and air pollution. There is no difference in price between the rich and the poor, developed or developing countries, women or men, good or bad people. Not only that, the effects of the Covid19 virus pandemic are also greater, such as inflation, scarcity of goods, uneventful mobility, a decline in the tourism sector, changes in human social behavior patterns, bilateral and multilateral relations between countries, as well as causing conflict and new attention to certain institutions. What is still a question in our minds right now is why Covid 19 still exists in the world, when will this pandemic be over and what will the conditions be after.

So far, the Covid19 outbreak is still seen as a global disease so that international security means providing efficient health care and the answer is how to prevent and find anti-viruses. But in essence, the presence of Covid19 explains more than that. Covid19 is also an impact of an environmental crisis that humans are rarely aware of, because basically Covid19 is a zoonotic disease (disease originating from animals) that can pass to humans through vectors (carriers) in the form of animals or humans, which humans are the last result of a series of cycles. viral life. Its presence identifies the irregular relationship between humans and their environment.

Concerns about the emergence of zoonotic diseases have existed for several years. In the 2016 UNEP Frontier Report, it was stated that one of the concerns that arose from international agencies dealing with the environment was zoonotic diseases. Since the 20th century, 75% there has been a drastic increase in infectious diseases which are zoonotic diseases of animal origin. On average, an animal-to-human infectious disease appears every four months. This is closely related to environmental changes or ecological disturbances such as defortation, climate change, decreased biodiversity, and the destruction of animal habitats.

In an interview with VoA Indonesia with one of the virologists at Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Indonesia (Sugyono) stated that the “Covid19 virus that is currently endemic in the world is due to interactions with humans and animals such as poaching and environmental damage. Some of the infectious diseases that hit the world are caused by pathogens of disease-carrying microorganisms that originate or spread through animals. Bats, mice, monkeys and other animals often become carriers of viruses to humans without the animals experiencing illness, the process of interaction between animals and humans such as poaching causes disease transmission. mutates due to climate change and weather ”. Viruses are small infectious agents with a simple composition that can only reproduce in host cells. Its survival is influenced by temperature and environment, changes in temperature and the environment can accelerate its spread.

Humans are the only creatures that can manage the earth, their presence since ancient times has greatly influenced the state of the earth both on land and in the oceans. In one of their journals Paul Crutzen stated that we (humans) are no longer in the Holocene but have entered the Anthroposcene era. The term Anthroposcene itself implies a transition from the Holocene which is an interglacial condition, influenced by the magnitude of human activity, further this intention is explained by Steffen that the Anthroposcene shows where human activities have become so numerous and intensive that they (humans) rival the great power of nature. The Anthroposcene shows that a crisis originates from human accident and this crisis is not an easy thing to mitigate.

Covid 19 is not a disaster or natural selection that can be understood to occur naturally but identifies more deeply than that, the presence of Covid19 demands that international security policies and practices must evolve beyond what they have understood so far. Although the threat of a pandemic is not new, the current pandemic is popularly referred to as “unprecedented.” It is currently uncertain when Covi 19 will end or at least be brought under control. Almost all diseases and disasters caused by environmental damage such as nuclear, severe pollution in several countries such as America, in Tokyo, Beijing, Jakarta, and other big cities cannot return to the way it was before the damage occurred, can only reduce the impact. If  revisit history further back, the earlier nations that had high civilization such as Central America, the people of the Easter islands, the Maya, the Anasazi, the Greek Mikene and many other civilizations also became extinct. What is modern society doing today is similar to what previous civilization nations did, accidental “ecological suicide” resulting in  drastic reduction in the size of the human population and political, economic, social complexity in over large area. Nature actually did a selection at its time and it (nature) was also able to regenerate itself within a certain period of time, but  if humans interfere in the process too deep  will change and disrupt the normal working system of nature which will have a bad effect back on humans.

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COVID-19 As an Agent of Change in World Order

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The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has claimed millions of lives. It has severely damaged the economy of the world. The consequences of the pandemic are expected to go much further. The virus has threatened the functioning of national and international politics. It has disrupted the international system through which events are controlled in the world. In one way or the other, all the fundamental constituents of the World Order have been reshaped. Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, forewarned, “The coronavirus epidemic will forever alter the world order.”

COVID-19 could potentially vary the following aspects of the existing World Order.

Cooperation

COVID-19 easily crossed international borders. It has been observed that states cooperated with each other on the strategy of containing the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) played an important part in integrating the states on the issue of contemporary health emergency. The WHO remained an ineffectual organization when the United States, under the presidency of Donald Trump, withdrew from it. Bringing the US back in the WHO was among the first presidential orders given by President Joe Biden.

Some scholars, on the other hand, view this warm cooperation by the US in the international arena as a facade for uniting to oppose the rise of China. The ‘America first’ approach of Donald Trump meant American protectionism. Joe Biden is said to have used the opportunity created by the COVID-19 pandemic to walk in step with allies in Asia.

Security

Power-practicing states have rarely downright inclined towards the standards of human security defined by the United Nations in its 1994 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development report. The report lays down the basic tenets of human security. Food, economic and health security are among important entities of human security. The pandemic has facilitated in proving the momentous nature of international institutions and cooperation. Security, therefore, has been redefined. The priorities have been shifted to health security.

Balance of Power

One may assume that in these trying times of the pandemic the states have come closer to fight the disease. However, this claim is not validated by hard-boiled political thinkers. Disruptions in the global economy tend to destabilize international politics, therefore, conflicts are likely to increase in the post-Covid world. For instance, the ongoing economic competition between the US and China is likely to continue to soar as the two states begin to engage in the ‘New Cold War’. The US has put blame on China for the spread of the coronavirus. Trump had repeatedly termed the coronavirus as the ‘China virus’. To neutralize the blame, China is active in the research and development of the COVID-19 vaccine. The crisis has facilitated China in showing the world its capability. In the long run, this could sway the balance of power.

However, neither China nor the United States is in a state in which it could emerge as a ‘winner’ in a way that would dramatically shift the balance of world power in favour of either state.

Vaccine Race

The production of mass-scale COVID-19 vaccine is no less than a race of the order of space race or arms race. Manufacturing COVID-19 vaccine is not only a matter of saving lives, but also a matter of saving face for some world leaders. Russia, US, UK, Germany, India and China are among the top competitors in the vaccine race. Vladimir Putin, Russian President, is eager to debut the vaccine to the world. It would be a sign of prestige in the international society and help Russia impose the new world order it vies for. Similarly, China has its own ambitions to lead the world, and inoculating the world is one way to do it.

The redistribution of power in post-Covid world will be dependent on states’ accomplishment in curbing the virus.

Financial World Order                                                        

The World Bank has estimated a 5.2% shrinkage in the global economy due to COVID-19 pandemic. Both the United States and China are eager to restore their Covid-hit economies in a way that one’s is greater than the other. In a substantial way, the United States is leading the world economy. It is one-fourth of the world economy. 80% of world trade is in USD. China aims to alter this mode of payment in international trade. It is giving competition to the US in terms of global trade exchange by building banks of its own. The pace of economic recovery adopted by the two competitors shall decide the post-Covid financial world order.

Dependency

Both the United States and China need allies to compete in the ‘New Cold War’. The COVID-19 pandemic has given them the opportunity to make allies via health assistance. The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facilities plan to distribute a major share of the vaccination to low and middle income countries. In July, 2020, China promised a $1 billion loan to Latin American and Caribbean countries. The US is also keen on this practice as Joe Biden is a strong advocate of global institutionalism.

COVAX could be a novel form of a bailout package. If this is so, the dependence of the Third World on the First World is likely to be increased.

Technology

As an agent of latent function, Covid has helped boost innovation. The states who have better technology are odds-on to impose their World Order. During the COVID-19 crisis, there has been an exponential growth in technology adoption. This implies that the military will have better strategic equipment than pre-Covid era. In modern international relations, military strength is the core determinant of state power.

Health as element of national power

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the elements of state power were either military strength or economy. The pandemic has shown that health can also be an indirect element of national power. The states with better healthcare have better chances of containing the virus. Their economy has better prospects of getting restored. Resultantly, the ‘healthy’ states have advantage over others in carrying on with their power politics.

Climate Change                                           

Due to closure of industrial sectors in the lockdown period, the global economy has collapsed. In the initial stage, it was expected that the lockdown will be a blessing in disguise for the cause of climate change. To restore the economy, however, governments of both developed and developing countries have no option but to reopen their industries. This means more emissions of carbon. The climate agreements are likely to be postponed until the economy is put back on track. The oil price decrease due to the pandemic will facilitate the poorer states in restoring their industries. This is another impediment in the way of a carbon-free global economy. Thus, the post-Covid world will have adverse effects on climate.

Threat to the political Right

The pandemic has proved to be unfortunate for the rising Right. Populism, nationalism and demagoguery do not seem to be working for the right wing leaders. The COVID-19 pandemic requires performance and output rather than speeches and slogans. This is so evident from the 2020 US Presidential elections. Donald Trump had been highly criticized for being a populist leader. His handling of the pandemic is one of the main factors that cost him the election. Similarly, in other parts of the world, people are demanding good governance rather than falling for rabble-rousers.

End of Globalization?

Globalization has severely been affected due to the pandemic. However, the process of globalization was slowing long before the pandemic, even before the election of anti-internationalist former US President Donald Trump. Some scholars are predicting the end of globalization due to the pandemic. Others argue that the pandemic shows how interconnected the world is. They see a potential growth in globalization and cooperation among the states, especially regarding the COVAX. Historical data show that crises tend to reinforce globalization. Globalization also helps to boost the fallen economy. Employment is an important part of globalization. There has been a significant surge in unemployment rate due to the lockdown imposed to cease the spread of the virus. To rectify the damages, people will tend to cross international borders. Therefore, immigration and, consequently, globalization is likely to increase in the post-Covid world.

COVID-19 pandemic alone may not change the World Order altogether. The transitions brought by the pandemic in the international system are likely to decide the leader of global political order. The post-Covid World Order depends on how and how fast the world emerges out of the pandemic. Vaccinating the world is the need of the hour. The contenders of the vaccine race need to be all-inclusive in the process of inoculation. If the United States or China succumbs to vaccine nationalism—the practice to limit the dosage of COVID-19 vaccine to domestic use— it will be difficult for them to ally other states in their vision of the new World Order.

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