“We are concerned about several elements in the Mexican election; the first is the assassination of candidates,” OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said. | Photo: @Almagro_OEA2015
A spike in assassinations in the run-up to Mexico’s regional and national elections is “absolutely unacceptable,” the Organization of American States (OAS) warned on Friday, March 16.
“It is an average of one murder of a candidate every four or five days: that is a margin of violence absolutely unacceptable in an electoral process, we are very worried,” said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.
Mexico’s next president – as well as numerous senators, federal deputies, governors and mayors – will be contested in July when millions of voters head to the polls.
“We are concerned about several elements in the Mexican election: the first is the assassination of candidates and political leaders in the country,” Almagro said during a conference at the Casa America in Madrid.
On Friday morning, news of the murder of Gustavo MartinGomez Alvarez, a mayoral candidate with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), reached the department of Puebla.
Local media is reporting that Gomez Alvarez was eating breakfast in Metlatoyuca at about 11:30 a.m. when a group of men drove up and shot him six times. The death is being investigated by the Puebla Public Prosecutor’s Office as a homicide.
Earlier this month, mayoral candidates Homero Bravo Espino, with the Mexican Democratic Party (PRD), and Aaron Varela Martinez, with the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), were both shot dead.
Antonia Jaimes Moctezuma (PRD) and Dulce Nayeli Rebaja Pedro(Institutional Revolutionary Party), both precandidates for local elections inChilapa, Guerrero, were killed on Feb. 21 and Feb. 25 respectively. Rebaja was also head of Indigenous and Afro-Mexican Affairs for the state of
According to the PRD’s estimate, about 12 members of the party have been assassinated since the beginning of the election campaign in September.
Local media report that at least 54 pre-candidates from various parties have been murdered during the same period, while 83 have been assaulted.
Since 2006, more than 100 mayors have been killed, according to a report by theNational Association of Mayors.
The OAS plans to send observers to the July elections in an attempt to safeguard electoral transparency.
This short video extract is of an alleged Sicario convoy being shot up by a general electrics minigun from a Mexican authorities helicopter. There isn’t much information about the clip, but I would suspect this helicopter is a black hawk, belonging to the Marines.
At this point in time I haven’t seen any footage of the newly ordered black hawks provided by the USA for the Mexican Army in service in combat. The video starts as the convoy has already been attacked, and is strafed again.
A French employee of France’s Consulate in Jerusalem is under arrest for allegedly smuggling dozens of weapons from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, Israel’s domestic security agency said Monday.
The Shin Bet said the man, identified as Romain Franck, 23, was part of a broader Palestinian smuggling ring. It said he used his consular vehicle, which is subjected to more lenient security checks, to transport the weapons through Israel’s tightly secured border with the Gaza Strip. It said he took part in the ring for financial gain and that his employer was unaware of his actions.
The French Embassy in Israel issued a statement confirming that a consulate employee had been arrested, saying it was treating the incident with “great importance,” but wouldn’t discuss the case itself. The embassy said it was in contact with Israeli authorities and the suspect’s family, and was opening an internal investigation into the matter.
The Shin Bet said Franck, who was arrested in February, confessed to the charges. A previous gag order on the case was lifted Monday, when Israel charged Franck with conspiracy to commit a crime and multiple weapons offenses, among other counts.
“This is a very serious incident in which the privileges and immunity granted to foreign missions in Israel were cynically exploited to smuggle dozens of weapons that could be used in terror attacks,” the Shin Bet statement said.
The Shin Bet said Franck transferred a total of 70 handguns and two assault rifles on five occasions over recent months. It said he received the arms from a Gaza man employed at the French cultural center in Gaza and brought them to someone in the West Bank, where they were then sold to arms dealers.
The French Foreign Ministry said the arrested employee, a member of the consulate’s “technical staff,” was detained by Israeli authorities “under serious charges related to alleged trafficking in arms.”
The ongoing internal investigation is aimed at “drawing all the conclusions to allow our Consulate General’s members to pursue in the best conditions their important mission in a difficult context,” ministry spokeswoman Agnes Von Der Muhll said.
The French ambassador and other embassy officials have visited the consular employee and “we’re making sure that all the rights of our compatriot are well respected,” she said.
According to the indictment, Franck was a driver for the consulate and would ferry diplomatic staff between Gaza and Jerusalem. He would transport the arms in packages or suitcases in the trunk of the consular car and lie to Israeli security guards at the Gaza border crossing when asked if he was carrying any weapons. The indictment said Franck earned thousands of dollars for moving the guns.
Israeli officials believe that consular immunity would not apply in this case.
The Shin Bet sent reporters a picture of what it said was the consular vehicle, a silver SUV. It was not clear from the photo whether the vehicle carried the white license plates of the consular corps.
Nine people, including Franck, were arrested, the Shin Bet said. Among the suspects is a Palestinian security guard at the French Consulate in Jerusalem.
The Shin Bet said French authorities were kept aware of developments on the case during the investigation.
Israel has previously accused Palestinians employed by the U.N. or non-governmental organizations of participating in hostile activities, including collaborating with Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. But allegations against international staffers are rare.
JERUSALEM — A French national working for his country’s consulate in Jerusalem appeared in an Israeli court on Monday on charges that he smuggled weapons from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in a diplomatic vehicle.
The consulate employee, identified by Israeli authorities as Romain Franck, is accused of smuggling the weapons out of Gaza on at least five occasions and transferring them to a criminal Palestinian ring. The gang is alleged to have sold the weapons for thousands of dollars to arms dealers in the occupied West Bank.
Franck, who French media said is 23 or 24 years old, is suspected of having transferred about 70 pistols and two assault rifles in return for roughly $7,500.
The indictment describes in detail the five times that he was allegedly involved in transferring “nylon-wrapped” packages of guns from Gaza to the West Bank cell. It said he was a driver with the French Consulate and took advantage of his access to consular vehicles — which are subject to less stringent security checks — to carry as many as 20 guns at a time through the Erez crossing into Israel and on to Jerusalem.
The indictment says he would then head to the West Bank city of Ramallah, passing through an Israeli checkpoint along the way, to meet members of the Palestinian cell and hand over the weapons.
Franck also allegedly involved another French Consulate employee, who worked as a security guard, in the criminal enterprise. That individual, an Israeli Arab resident of East Jerusalem, was indicted Monday on similar charges.
“The investigation clearly shows that the employee of the French Consulate acted for financial gain, on his own initiative and without the knowledge of his superiors,” Israel’s internal security agency said in a statement, referring to Franck.
“This is a very grave incident in which the immunity and privileges granted to foreign missions in Israel were cynically exploited to smuggle dozens of weapons that may be used for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces,” said the agency, known as Shin Bet.
A spokesman for the French Embassy in Tel Aviv said, “We take this case very seriously and are in very close contact with the Israeli authorities on this case.” The spokesman’s name could not be published under ground rules for briefing news media.
Franck has been held by Israeli authorities since Feb. 15, the indictment says. Seven other people, including his colleague from the consulate, also were arrested in relation to the smuggling ring.
The crossing between Israel and Gaza is permanently on high alert, and Gaza has been subject to tight restrictions on movement and trade since the militant Islamist group Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007. Since then, Israel and Hamas — which has been designated a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union — have fought three wars.
Tensions have increased along the border in recent weeks, with Israel accusing Hamas of sending civilians to protest along its border fence. Gaza residents have held regular protests near the barrier since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. Several protesters have been fatally shot by Israeli security forces.
Rocket fire from Gaza also increased in the wake of Trump’s announcement, although it has since died down.
On Sunday, the Israeli military said it destroyed a Hamas tunnel built to enable the group’s fighters to infiltrate Israeli territory. On Thursday, the military said two explosive devices were detonated near troops on a routine patrol. Last month, four Israeli soldiers were injured when a bomb went off next to the border fence.
“We are seeing Hamas instigate riots, calling on its civilians to march toward the fence and engage with our troops,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an army spokesman, said Thursday in a news briefing. “We are seeing a pattern here, and we will not allow it to become standard operating procedure.”
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly characterized Israel’s Shin Bet security service as alleging that Romain Franck was acting on behalf of Hamas.
Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 03/20/2018 The Turkish Embassy in the Danish capital Copenhagen was attacked by four people with Molotov cocktails early on March 19, according to a police official.
Torben Madsen from the Copenhagen police told reporters that the police had noticed the attack while patrolling the area at around 2.55 a.m. local time (0155GMT).
Madsen said a number of police officers were sent to the area, adding that the police officer who spotted the incident was focused on extinguishing the fire rather than catching the fleeing attackers.
Madsen said nothing about who the suspected attackers might be. No-one was hurt, even though the building was damaged.
Attacks on Turkish buildings in Europe have intensified since Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to remove the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Syria’s northwestern Afrin district.
In a tweet, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen condemned the attack: “Attacking diplomatic missions of other countries is a very serious act. The special statuses of embassies in our country must be respected.
“I hope those responsible for the attack on the Turkish Embassy will be brought to justice by being captured quickly,” Rasmussen added.
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said in a statement: “I strongly condemn the arson attack attempt last night against Turkey’s
Embassy in Copenhagen. It is good that nobody got hurt.”
Samuelsen said, “The Turkish Embassy stands under our protection as does all embassies in Copenhagen. An attack on an embassy is an attack on the Danish state. I thank our police for quick response.”
Colombia’s prosecution said Wednesday that it prevented attacks on United States government officials in the capital Bogota, allegedly planned by a Cuban national.
Raul Gutierrez Sanchez, a 46-year old that is in Colombia illegally, reportedly planned to attack Bogota’s exclusive “Zona Rosa,” a densely populated area frequently visited by American tourists and diplomats.
The prosecution arrested Gutierrez on terrorism charges and conspiring to commit a crime, to which he denies.
Alarm bells rang for authorities when incriminating messages between Gutierrez and a group of Islamic extremists were intercepted.
In one of the messages, Gutierrez allegedly said that he had already done the reconnaissance work on a restaurant in Bogota visited by “f***ing gringos that work in the embassy,” likely referencing American diplomats who are believed to be the targets of the attack.
The prosecutors office accused Gutierrez of planning to attack 29 Americans that worked in the United States Embassy in Bogota.
Another one of Gutierrez’s intercepted message reads, “I will avenge my brothers with or without your help. Allah is with me”, to which he receives a reply saying the attack must be carried out “in the name of Allah to avenge the fallen brothers”, reportedly by a Spanish resident of Moroccan descent who is also being pursued by officials.
It is not yet known if Gutierrez is part of international terrorist network, ISIS, or merely a sympathiser.
According to an analyst at Colombia’s College of War, Nestor Rosania, Colombia isn’t prepared in dealing with international terrorism on home soil.
“The traditional focus has been on the nation’s internal conflict; (international terrorism) hasn’t been a priority. They are topics we must begin to work on”, Rosania told Blu Radio.
Colombia is home to one internationally recognized terrorist organization, the Marxist ELNgroup, which has been combating the Colombian state since 1964.
An explosion wounded several security guards of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah but left him unharmed during a visit to the Gaza Strip to open a public-works facility there.
The blast on Tuesday happened shortly after Hamdallah’s convoy passed through the Israeli-controlled Erez checkpoint, known to Palestinians as Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, an Al Jazeera correspondent at the scene reported.
Hamdallah, who heads the Palestinian Authority government based in Ramallah in the West Bank, appeared on live television following the incident at the inauguration of a wastewater-treatment plant in Hamas-run Gaza.
Shortly afterwards, he returned to Ramallah where he gave a brief address outside his office.
He said seven of his guards were wounded in the attack and they were being treated in hospitals across Ramallah.
“It [the attack] does not represent patriotism. It is a cowardly act that does not represent our people, nor does it represent the people of Gaza,” Hamdallah said.
Majed Faraj, the Palestinian Authority intelligence chief, was part of the convoy.
Fatah, the West Bank-based political party to which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas belongs, called the incident a “terrorist attack” and blamed it on Hamas.
“This attack is an attempt to kill all reconciliation efforts. It is a dangerous step aimed at spreading disorder and fighting among our people,” Munir al-Jaghoub, who heads Fatah‘s information department at the Office of Mobilisation and Organisation, said.
“We demand that Hamas expedite its investigation. The developments have proven that Hamas has completely failed in providing security in Gaza, just as it has failed in providing a decent life for our people in the strip.”
Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian political parties, signed a reconciliation agreement in October 2017, ending a decade of division that saw two parallel governments operating in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Iyad al-Buzom, Gaza’s interior ministry spokesman, said the act of placing blame “has a political dimension”.
“Here in Gaza, we take all the security precautions to welcome all the convoys and delegations and particularly the prime minister as he entered Gaza,” he said.
“Several suspects were arrested a short while ago”, and an investigation “to find out who was behind the explosion” is under way, Buzom added.
The agreement to form a unity government was signed in the Egyptian capital Cairo on October 13, but efforts to implement the deal have faced obstacles.
Mustafa Ibrahim, a Gaza-based political analyst, said there are “several sides who are benefiting from this explosion”.
“We will hear Fatah saying that some members of Hamas do not want reconciliation, and likewise, we will hear Hamas saying this could have been a fabricated attack by Fatah’s security services,” Ibrahim told Al Jazeera.
“The ones who will pay the price are the Palestinian people themselves. The Palestinian Authority may impose more punitive measures against the Gaza Strip, and it is imperative that Hamas captures those behind the attack as soon as possible.
“This explosion will have repercussions for the people in Gaza.”
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, condemned the attack and said in a Twitter post those behind it seek to “undermine” reconciliation.
Also commenting on the incident, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Twitter Gazans need “a real government that will provide basic services”.
Nauert’s remarks came as the White House held a conference on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has been under a land, sea, and naval blockade for more than a decade.
However, Palestinian officials were not expected to attend the conference. Earlier this week the PA rejected the White House’s invitation saying the issue in Gaza was “political par excellence”.
Street names, apparently, are not immune to the diplomatic tit-for-tat between Moscow and Washington.
Moscow’s city government announced Monday that it will consider a request from a Russian parliament member to change the postal address of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to 1 North American Dead-end.
The name change request seems to be retaliation for Washington’s announcement last month that it would name part of Wisconsin Avenue in front of the Russian Embassy Nemtsov Plaza after slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Nemtsov was shot and killed in 2015 just steps from the Kremlin. He was a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s tight grip on political dissent.
The street renaming comes after months of an intense diplomatic standoff between Russia and the U.S. Putin this summer demanded that the U.S. Mission in Russia reduce its staff from about 1,200 employees across one embassy and three consulates to 445. In the U.S., Russia was ousted from its consulate building in San Francisco, as well as two diplomatic retreat centers in New York in Maryland.
Nemtsov’s assassins were convicted and sentenced for his murder, but the opposition leaders’ supporters blame the Kremlin for not investigating who gave the order for the killing, which they believe came from a higher level.
Moscow complained that Washington’s decision to dedicate a street area to a Putin’s political opponent came at a time when “bilateral relations between the two countries still leave much to be desired, mildly speaking,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters last month.
Russian parliament member Mikhail Degtyaryov suggested the name change for the street in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow a day after the Washington city government approved the Nemtsov Plaza request. Degtyaryov represents the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in Russia’s lower house of parliament, known as the Duma.
Moscow’s city administration said the name change will be discussed in this month’s meeting of an interdepartmental commission dedicated to the city’s street and facilities’ names. The U.S. Embassy’s current postal address is 8 Bolshaya Devyatinsky Lane, a side street leading from Moscow’s central Garden Ring road.
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission plans to convene a meeting later this week on a recent attack by members of an extremist religious cult on the country’s embassy in London, the spokesman for the commission said.
Hossein Naqavi Hosseini told Tasnim on Monday that the commission is scheduled to hold the session on March 14 to look into the embassy attack and whether or not the British police’s failure to act promptly was deliberate.
Deputies of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would also attend the meeting, he added.
In the attack on Friday, four men dressed in black climbed on to a first-floor balcony of the building, took down the Iranian flag, and waved flags of their radical cult in an apparent protest against the Islamic Republic.
No one was hurt during the incident and the trespassers were arrested when they came down after around three hours. The four were detained for causing criminal damage and being unlawfully on diplomatic premises, a spokeswoman for London’s Metropolitan Police said.
Immediately after the incident was reported, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, Abbas Araqchi, expressed the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strong protest to the British ambassador to Tehran and demanded that the UK police fully protect Iranian diplomats in London and immediately deal with the assailants.
Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidnejad, tweeted that the assailants were “advocates of the Shirazi cult”.
The weekly Islamic State newsletter that usually focuses on internal headlines within remaining caliphate territory devoted a section to discussing attacks on U.S. embassies and kidnappings of westerners in locales not usually touched by the terror group.
ISIS has previously used the briefs section in al-Naba to discuss the Las Vegas shooting, which they’ve claimed as their own while authorities said no extremist links have been found, and the California wildfires, in which they’ve highlighted the tactic of arson without claiming responsibility.
In the latest issue of the 12-page newsletter distributed online, ISIS begins with a foiled plot in Jordan in which the terror group targeted Israeli businessmen making regular visits to a clothing factory and the U.S. Embassy in Amman. Jordan’s Al-Rainewspaper reported Tuesday that the plot was uncovered by Jordanian security forces in November, resulting in 17 arrests. Other targets included a nightclub, a church, the French Institute of Jordan, Phosphate Company tunnels, and the Ro’ya TV network.
Jordanian authorities said the ISIS cell was divided into three teams: a team to scope out the targets, a minor-attack and technical support team, and the major-attack team.
In their newsletter, ISIS noted the plans against “Jewish businessmen,” the U.S. Embassy, the church and the French center, and noted that “on the other hand” Jordan sentenced a group of “young people” to 3 to 7 years behind bars on charges of promoting ISIS. They lauded one of the terror recruits for calling Jordanian authorities “oppressor apostates” in court and saying his jihadist brothers were real Muslims.
“These reports are published as messages to the Crusader intelligence… as well as messages for young people to intimidate them and intimidate them from planning jihad,” ISIS wrote, adding such efforts “were blown away by operations… in the heart of European capitals against the world’s most powerful intelligence services.”\
The next news brief focuses on last week’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica. At around midnight, an attacker threw a hand grenade at the U.S. facility and then blew himself up. He caused no injuries. Montenegro courts last month handed down their first sentence against one of its citizens for joining ISIS.
The ISIS report cited the U.S. Embassy’s security warning during the ongoing situation and how the attacker tossed the explosive device “then blew his explosive belt.”
ISIS then shifted to this week’s news that Bernard Raymond Augustine, 20, of Keyes, Calif., had been arrested in Tunisia trying to cross over to Libya to join ISIS cells there.
The terror group said Augustine was now being tried by the “American Crusader prosecution” for attempting “to join the soldiers of the Islamic State of Libya.” Augustine, who was charged with providing material support to a terrorist group, reportedly had an ISIS nasheed, or song, on his computer and had sent messages praising the terror group. The ISIS al-Naba brief said that “during the period prior to his departure” Augustine “published pro-Islamic expressions in Arabic on the Internet.”
The next ISIS brief noted that Rome and Moscow reportedly have been working together “to prevent infiltration” of Islamic State “troops to Europe” through migration from Libya. “Both Italy and Russia are ready to cooperate in Libya to stop the infiltration of the Mujahideen of the Islamic State and may turn their property in the Libyan desert into bases” in an effort to prevent “terrorist attacks against Italy” as well as jihadists who slip through the country en route to “other places of Europe,” the terror group said. ISIS said in the early days of the caliphate that they wanted to sack Rome by 2020.
Finally, the ISIS briefs highlighted the UK warning to travelers in South Africa last week after an elderly couple were abducted by kidnappers loyal to ISIS there. According to The Times of South Africa, the Britons lived in Cape Town for many years and were seized near Vryheid in northern KwaZulu-Natal, a rural area near the Swaziland border. Several days later South African counterterrorism operatives arrested Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, Fatima Patel and Themba Xulu for kidnapping and terrorism, reportedly including hoisting an ISIS flag at Ndlovini Reserve.
The couple, botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders, remain missing. Money was drained from their bank accounts and their Toyota Land Cruiser was found abandoned and stained with blood. Their cell phones were found with Xulu.
The State Department did not issue a safety advisory after the incident. The British government cited the kidnapping and warned travelers that “terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa — attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in major cities.”
“News reports suggest that a number of South African nationals have traveled to Syria, Iraq and Libya. They are likely to pose a security threat on their return. There’s also a threat from individuals who may have been inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh, to carry out so called ‘lone actor’ attacks targeting public places including where foreigners may gather,” continued the British warning. “South African authorities have successfully disrupted several planned attacks and made a number of arrests related to terrorism offences including alleged plots to attack Jewish targets and western diplomatic missions. South African authorities have also been effective against right-wing extremists.”
“There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
ISIS cited the case in al-Naba and said “Crusader Britain was in danger” after “attacks targeting its nationals in South Africa.”
Istanbul: Turkish police detained four Iraqi nationals on Monday on suspicion of planning an attack on the US Embassy in Ankara, the state-run Anadolu Agency said, hours after the mission temporarily closed due to a security threat.
Police detained four Iraqis residing in the Black Sea province of Samsun who had been preparing for an attack on the embassy, Anadolu said.
The embassy said it was closed to the public on Monday due to a security threat was only providing emergency services. It did not specify the nature of the security threat. It will also be closed on Tuesday.
It advised US citizens in Turkey to avoid large crowds, the embassy building, and to be aware of their own security when visiting tourist sites and crowded places.
While relations between the United States and Turkey – both NATO allies and members of the coalition against IS – have been strained in recent months, Turkey said the embassy closure was not political.
“The decision to close the American embassy is not a political one, it was taken on security grounds. The embassy has shared intelligence with the Turkish intelligence service and security forces,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, the government’s main spokesman, told a news conference. “Both the intelligence service and security forces have taken extra measures, and important results have been achieved,” he said, without elaborating. The United States suspended visa services at its missions in Turkey in October after two local employees were held on suspicion of ties to the failed 2016 coup.
Ankara reciprocated and visa restrictions between the two were not lifted until the end of December. The embassy said it would make an announcement when it was ready to reopen.