‘Massive expansion’ in US covert operations in Africa

US military base in DjiboutiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States administration of President Barack Obama is implementing a near-unprecedented expansion of covert operations by American military forces throughout Africa, aimed at a host of armed groups deemed extremist by Washington. A lead article published yesterday in The Washington Post quotes over a dozen unnamed American and African officials, as well as military contractors, who refer to the US military-led effort as Project CREEKSAND. It allegedly involves secret operations in several African countries, conducted out of a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations around the continent. According to The Post, most of the airplanes used in Project CREEKSAND are small, unarmed, disguised to look like private aircraft, and bear no military markings or government insignia. In reality, however, they carry sophisticated electronic equipment designed to collect signals intelligence, while some are used to transport US Special Forces troops during capture or kill missions. The paper quotes an unnamed “former senior US commander […] involved in setting up the [air bases] network”, who alleges that the US government has built about a dozen such bases throughout Africa since 2007. These secret air bases are located in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles. Most of the US personnel involved in Project CREEKSAND consists of Special Operations forces tasked with “training foreign security forces [and] performing aid missions”. However, The Post alleges that there are also small teams of US operatives who are “dedicated to tracking and killing suspected terrorists”. Read more of this post

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Libya’s spy chief was lured by French-Mauritanian intelligence trap

Abdullah al-SenussiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The arrest of Muammar al-Gaddafi’s spy chief in Mauritania last week was the culmination of a carefully planned French intelligence operation, which was secretly aided by the Mauritanian government, according to informed insiders. Abdullah al-Senussi, Colonel Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, who used to head the Mukhabarat el-Jamahiriya, Libya’s intelligence agency, was captured at the Nouakchott International Airport in the Mauritanian capital on March 17. He was detained as soon as he arrived there on a chartered flight from Mali. He had previously entered Mali from Niger, and was reportedly under the government’s protection. But the ongoing uprising of the pro-Gaddafi Tuareg in the north of the country, which has now resulted in a military coup in Bamako, caused the former Libyan spy chief to seek refuge elsewhere. According to a well-researched article by Reuters news agency, al-Senussi was gradually convinced to travel to Mauritania by the al-Me’edani clan, a pro-Gaddafi nomadic tribe that had previously worked for the Libyan security agencies and whose members had been given Libyan nationality by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. The clan, says the Reuters article, was persuaded to turn its back on al-Senussi as part of a behind-the-scenes agreement between French and Mauritanian intelligence agencies. The deal was struck after a high-level agreement between the Nicolas Sarkozy government in Paris and the Mauritanian government of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. A career soldier and high-ranking officer, Abdel Aziz assumed power in the country in a 2008 military coup that was widely condemned by international bodies, including the United Nations. But the military regime in Nouakchott was pleased to see Paris engineer a thaw in relations between the two countries in 2009. Ever since then, the French government has publicly praised the regime of President Abdel Aziz as a “key partner” in combating terrorism. Mauritania’s decision to help France capture al-Senussi was a repayment to the country’s former colonial master for its support after the 2008 military coup, according to Reuters. Following his arrest, al-Senussi is believed to be held at the headquarters of the Mauritanian intelligence service in Nouakchott. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #699

Hilda MurrellBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Diplomatic war over the arrest of Gaddafi’s spy chief. The Libyan authorities have confirmed the arrest in Mauritania of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, who was reportedly detained at Nouakchott airport. Senussi, 63, was Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, and has been described as one of his most trusted aides. But his arrest has kicked off an international row about which of his alleged crimes —ranging from terrorism to war crimes and mass murder— should take precedence in the pursuit of justice. The Mauritanians are now saying that they are willing to extradite al-Senussi, but this remains to be seen in practice.
►►Azerbaijan arrests 22 in alleged Iran spy plot. Azerbaijan has arrested 22 of its own citizens, on suspicion of spying for Iran. Weapons and ammunition were seized, authorities say, accusing the group of links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Their alleged targets included the US and Israeli embassies as well as Western-linked companies. Surveillance by the Azeri security services is reported to have helped foil the alleged Iranian-sponsored plot.
►►Was there MI5 link to murder of UK nuclear activist? One of Britain’s leading human rights lawyers, Michael Mansfield QC, has demanded a fresh police inquiry to establish what the British intelligence services knew about the murder of a prominent anti-nuclear campaigner. The lawyer said new evidence meant that an independent police force should be appointed to examine enduring concerns and inconsistencies relating to the death of Hilda Murrell, in March 1984.

Mossad spy network allegedly busted in Mauritania

Fares al-BannaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in the northwestern African country of Mauritania have allegedly busted an Israeli spy network linked to the 2010 assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. One of Mauridania’s leading daily newspapers, Al-Huriyeh, says that the spy ring, which allegedly consisted “businessmen and activists [from] several Arab nationalities”, was uncovered following the arrest of one of its members, identified as Fares al-Banna. A Jordanian citizen of Palestinian extraction, al-Banna was arrested for larceny, which eventually lead to a warrant issued for searching his premises. Upon searching his house, authorities reportedly found a handwritten letter, addressed to the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, in which al-Banna claimed had been recruited by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. In the letter, al-Banna also claimed that he had participated in the January 2010 assassination of Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. The letter also alleges that al-Banna helped Mossad carry out a bombing of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409, which blew up in mid-air on January 24, 2010, five minutes after taking off from Beirut’s Rafiq Hariri International Airport, en route to Addis Ababa. Al-Huriyeh reports that al-Banna’s letter suggests the Mossad blew up the plane in order to kill one or more Hezbollah targets who were on board. The Mauritanian daily says that police officers who searched al-Banna’s home, as well as his office at a travel agents called “United Travel Services”, found several different passports containing his picture, “dozens of credit cards”, as well as a sophisticated device believed to be a transmitter of some kind. Read more of this post

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