Burundi president’s whereabouts unknown as coup unfolds

BurundiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Update, May 14, 1924 UTC: The BBC reports that President Nkurunziza has returned to Bujumbura. He claims that troops loyal to him “are in control of key locations” in the capital.

There was chaos last night in Burundi, as armed cells of coup plotters led by the country’s former intelligence chief claimed to have taken over power in the small but important Central African nation. General Godefroid Niyombare, who was ousted from his post as intelligence chief in February of this year, claimed in a public radio address to have led a successful “military uprising against the country’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza. As of last night, 20 people had been reported dead in capital Bujumbura, while over 200 had been injured and many more hundreds had been arrested by the coup plotters —most of them officials in President Nkurunziza’s administration. The headquarters of the country’s state-owned television and radio stations have been taken over by the coup plotters, while all private radio stations in the country appear to have been shut down. Online social media also seem to have been placed behind a firewall by the coup plotters. The Bujumbura international airport is closed, as are all border crossings into the country.

The alleged coup comes after nearly a month of daily protests in the capital and other major cities, against an attempt by President Nkurunziza to seek a third term in power. Such a move would violate the country’s constitution and has been criticized as unlawful by the African Union, the European Union and the United States. General Niyombare, the self-proclaimed leader of the coup, is thought to have been dismissed from his intelligence post in February for publicly opposing President Nkurunziza’s effort to extend his 10-year rule of the country.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the president, who was traveling by air to neighboring Tanzania for a regional summit when the coup broke out, remain unknown. Gunfire and explosions have been reported in Bujumbura, which is interpreted by observers as a sign that troops still loyal to Nkurunziza are defending the presidential palace, the ministry of defense and other strategic buildings in the capital. But the extent to which the plotters and the president have support within the armed forces remains unclear, and it is not known who is currently governing the country.

Burundi is the third largest target by Somali-based Islamist group al-Shabaab, and contributes the second-largest troop force to AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Should the government be deposed, the African Union will likely order all Burundian troops to return to their country.

Turkish general claims CIA ‘may have had role’ in 2003 coup plot

Bilgin BalanliBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A Turkish former four-star general, who was jailed for his role in an alleged coup plot by secularists in the Turkish military, has alleged in an interview that the United States may have advised the coup plotters. Bilgin Balanli was the only active-duty four-star general to be charged in connection with the so-called Balyoz Harekâti (Operation SLEDGEHAMMER) coup-plot case. The alleged plot became widely known in early 2010, when Taraf, a liberal Turkish daily, published documents from 2003 that outlined the plotters’ plans for a military takeover of government. According to Taraf, the conspirators were secularists within the ranks of Turkey’s military and intelligence agencies, who were opposed to the rule of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), headed by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The documents outlined plans to bomb two mosques in Istanbul and bring down a Turkish fighter jet over the Aegean Sea, which would be blamed on Greece. The plotters hoped that the ensuing crisis would permit the military to assume power in the country. The AKP-led government reacted swiftly: on February 21, 2010, police operations took place in nearly a dozen Turkish provinces, leading to the arrests of over 40 leading coup plotters. Another 325 were charged in the following days. The alleged plotters argued that Operation SLEDGEHAMMER was simply an exercise that had been conceived as a scenario-based simulation for a military seminar. But the courts rejected their argument and sentenced nearly 300 of the accused to prison terms ranging from a few months to several years. More recently, however, most of those sentenced were released pending retrials. Many were acquitted last month on grounds that their civil rights had been violated during their initial trial.

Among those acquitted was General Balanli, who was about to be promoted to Chief of Staff for the Turkish Air Force when he was arrested in connection to SLEDGEHAMMER in 2010. His conviction meant that he had to resign from his post and relinquish his state pension. In his first lengthy interview since his acquittal, Balanli said he believes many of the coup planning documents had been authored by a non-Turkish intelligence agency, probably the US Central Intelligence Agency. Balanli was referring to allegations, made by many of the accused during the SLEDGEHAMMER trials, that an American senator had provided some of the coup planning documents, with the help of a retired Turkish military officer based in Istanbul. According to Balanli, much of the terminology and phraseology found in the plot documents was clearly not written by Turkish-language speakers. For example, said Balanli, the Turkish-language documents used the term “ocean” to refer to the Aegean Sea. “We do not use the word ‘ocean’ to refer to our seas”, said the Turkish general. “The term ‘ocean’ is only used by the US to refer to the sea”, he argued. “I believe that these documents were translated from the English, from the original American plan”, said Balanli.

The former general’s claim, though unsubstantiated, is bound to be refuted by Washington. It will, however, reinforce Turkish President Erdoğan’s claim that his pro-Islamist government has been the subject of plots and machinations from the West, and especially from Washington.

Analysis: The Politics Behind the Thailand Coup Explained

Thai troops in the streets of BangkokBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org
In the early hours of Thursday, the Thai government of acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, which had been appointed on May 7 of this year, was dissolved. Executive rule is now in the hands of the Peace and Order-Maintaining Command (POMC), led by Army General Prayuth Chan-ocha and composed of the commanders-in-chief of the Royal Air Force, Navy and Police. The 2007 Constitution has been suspended and the leaders of all political factions have been arrested. The POMC has taken over all broadcasting facilities in the country and has warned social media hosts that they are not allowed to publish content that is “misleading” to the public, “escalates political conflict” or “opposes the mandate of the POMC”. Thai military officials continue to deny that this is a coup, but the actions of the POMC reflect textbook tactics of juntas, down to the suspension of regular broadcasts and their replacement with patriotic songs and military marches.

None of this is surprising, given Thailand’s turbulent political history. Since 1932, when the country became a constitutional monarchy, there have been nearly 30 military-led mutinies, rebellions, and armed insurrections in the country, including 18 attempted coups, 12 of them successful. The most recent coup prior to last Thursday’s was in 2006, when the armed forces toppled the legally elected government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was accused of abusing his power and disrespecting the country’s monarchy. In January of this year, political forecaster Jay Ulfelder, who served for a decade as research director of the United States government’s Political Instability Task Force, predicted that Thailand was close to a military coup. He published a mathematical model analyzing the likelihood of a military coup materializing in most of the world’s countries in 2014. Notably, Thailand was the only non-African nation among the ten candidates that topped Ulfelder’s list.

Read more of this post

Document confirms CIA role in 1953 Iran coup

Iran and its regionBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Almost exactly 60 years ago, on August 19, 1953, a military coup d’état deposed Iran’s legally elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with General Fazlollah Zahedi. Mossadegh was placed under house arrest, while his senior government associates and thousands of his supporters were arrested. Many, including Hossein Fatemi, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mossadegh’s trusted friend, were tortured and eventually executed. The coup, which reinstated the Shah at the helm of Iran’s government, is believed to have been planned and executed by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in cooperation with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This, however, has never been publicly acknowledged by the CIA. The Agency has consistently refused comment on the matter, saying that most of the records of its involvement in Iran at the time were “lost or destroyed” in the mid-1960s. This policy of silence, however, appears to have changed this week, after the CIA released an official document that acknowledges the Agency’s leading role in the coup. The document, entitled The Battle for Iran, is part of an internal CIA historical report produced in the mid-1970s by an Agency historian. Parts of it were declassified in 1981, but its most important chapter, titled “Section III: Covert Action”, had been redacted prior to its public release. Sometime ago, George Washington University’s National Security Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the complete release of the report. This was not granted; but the CIA did release a new public version of the document, which contains fewer redacted passages. Among the newly uncovered information is a brief description of the operational side of the August 1953 coup, which the CIA codenamed TPAJAX. Read more of this post

Alleged coup attempt against North Korean leader in Pyongyang

Kim Jong-un surrounded by generalsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A prolonged exchange of gunfire that took place in the North Korean capital last November was part of a failed military coup against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to intelligence sources. On Wednesday, South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo quoted an anonymous intelligence source in Seoul, who said the coup was linked to an ongoing power struggle unfolding inside the North Korean armed forces. The unnamed source told the paper that Seoul had confirmed the accuracy of rumors of an “armed skirmish” that took place at a central location in downtown Pyongyang in mid-November of 2012. The exchange of gunfire, which stunned residents of the eerily ordered city, was allegedly an effort to assassinate Kim, but failed after the assailants were rounded up and arrested by troops loyal to the country’s leadership. The culprits appear to be members of the Reconnaissance Bureau of the General Staff Department, which operates as the primary intelligence-collection agency of North Korea’s Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces. In early November of last year, the Reconnaissance Bureau was restructured to accommodate two newly amalgamated intelligence agencies, the Intelligence Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea and a combat-intelligence unit of the People’s Armed Forces. A number of North Korean generals, who were previously leading these amalgamated agencies, were demoted to reflect their new posts under the Reconnaissance Bureau. Among them was Kim Yong-chol, who saw his rank change overnight from a four-star general to that of a two-star lieutenant general. Read more of this post

Sudan arrests senior intelligence officials linked to foiled coup plot

Salah GoshBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Authorities in Sudan have announced the arrest of senior current and former intelligence officials over an alleged coup plot, which has reportedly been foiled. Spokesmen for the government of longtime Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Thursday that thirteen senior “military and civilian figures” had been arrested for “inciting chaos […], targeting leaders [and] spreading [false] rumors” about the President’s health. Among them is Lieutenant General Salah Gosh, who directed Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Services for a decade before stepping down in 2009 to become President al-Bashir’s Senior Security Adviser. Gosh was widely considered a key member of al-Bashir’s inner circle in Khartoum until April of 2011, when he was unexpectedly fired, allegedly for having raised criticisms of the President’s policies. Those arrested in the early hours of Thursday reportedly include Brigadier General Mohammed Ibrahim, a Field Commander in the Sudanese Army, and Major General Adil al-Tayeb, a senior military intelligence official. Reuters reports that witnesses in Khartoum saw several army tanks and dozens of armored vehicles speeding down a central street that links the capital with the Khartoum International Airport, shortly before midnight on Wednesday. However, reports from Khartoum this morning suggest that the city appears calm and traffic patterns are normal. The country’s Minster of Information, Ahmed Belal Osman, told local media that “the situation is now totally stable”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #797

Mohamed MorsiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt names new intelligence chief. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last week issued a decree naming Mohammed Raafat Shehata the country’s new head of intelligence, after the former spy chief was forced into retirement. Shehata had been acting director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Directorate since August 8, when his predecessor Murad Muwafi was sacked, after after gunmen killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai.
►►Ex-Blackwater firm to teach US spies survival skills. The Defense Intelligence Agency announced on Thursday evening it would award six private security companies a share of a $20 million contract to provide “individual protective measures training courses” for its operatives. Among them is Academi, the 3.0 version of Blackwater, now under new ownership and management. The US military’s intelligence service is hiring the firm, along with five others, to train its operatives to defend themselves as they collect information in dangerous places.
►►Turkey court convicts 326 of coup plotting. A Turkish court on Friday convicted 326 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the nation’s Islamic-based government in 2003, in a case that has helped curtail the military’s hold on politics. A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul’s outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek, and former army commander Cetin Dogan, to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term because the plot had been unsuccessful. The trial of the high-ranking officers —inconceivable in Turkey a decade ago— has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in the country in favor of civilian authorities.

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