Is al-Qaeda holding French intelligence officers captive?

Serge LazarevićBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Two French citizens kidnapped last November by an al-Qaeda-linked militant group, while on an alleged business trip in Mali, may have connections with French intelligence. One of the two hostages, Philippe Verdon, made headlines on Wednesday, after it was alleged that he may have been executed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The website of the Agence Nouakchott d’Information, a Mauritanian news service that frequently carries AQIM press statements, said that Verdon was killed on March 10 in retaliation for France’s military operations in Mali. Verdon was kidnapped from a hotel in the northeastern Malian city of Hombori along with another French citizen, Serge Lazarević. Their families insist that the two Frenchmen were abducted while “doing a feasibility study for a future cement factory” in Mali. But is this true? Or could Serge Lazarević be the same Slobodan “Serge” Lazarević, who was implicated in a 1999 French intelligence operation aimed at assassinating Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević? As intelNews reported in January of 2009, three alleged French-handled intelligence operatives were put on trial in Serb capital Belgrade, allegedly for collaborating with a French commando team tasked with assassinating the Serb leader. The three, Jugoslav Petrušić, Slobodan Orašanin and Milorad Pelemiš, were arrested by Yugoslav authorities in November 1999, reportedly while trying to organize “10 trained commandos to storm the presidential residence”. Although sensational, the charges against the three men are hardly unique in the context of the murky intelligence history of NATO’s 1999-2000 war in Yugoslavia, which has yet to be fully written. What is interesting in this case, however, is that the three accused admitted infiltrating the Yugoslav military and routinely supplying NATO with intelligence data on bombing targets during Operation Allied Force. Read more of this post

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Hundreds of European mercenaries ‘fighting for Gaddafi’

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Hundreds of European mercenaries, including large numbers of European Union citizens, have voluntarily enrolled in the armed forces of the Libyan government, and are fighting under the command of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. According to criminologist Michel Koutouzis, the Greek CEO of a French-registered consulting firm with connections to Libya, up to 500 European soldiers-of-fortune have been hired by the Libyan government to provide “special services”, particularly in heavy weaponry and attack helicopters. Koutouzis says that most of the European mercenaries, who sell their services for thousands of dollars a day, come from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Serbia, but there are also French, British and Greek nationals currently in Libya. He also claims that Gaddafi is supported by serving military personnel from Russia, Syria and Algeria. It is believed that the Gaddafi camp is also employing thousands of non-specialist mercenaries from various African nations, including Somalia, Mali, Niger, Chad, and the Central African Republic. Unconfirmed reports have surfaced in the American press that the Gaddafi forces are employing female snipers from Colombia. Read more of this post

Who tried to burn down the US embassy in Skopje in 1999?

Dragan Pavlovic-Latas

Pavlovic-Latas

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On March 25, 1999, approximately 200 people broke off from a much larger crowd of pro-Serbian demonstrators in downtown Skopje, Macedonia, and, in a military-style operation, tore down the security perimeter around the US embassy and occupied its courtyard for several hours. With the US ambassador, Christopher Hill, and most of the embassy staff inside the building, the occupiers set fire to embassy cars and tried to set the building alight. By the time they were dispersed by police, the rioters had managed to destroy all the cars parked in the embassy’s courtyard, as well as a large part of the embassy building’s exterior. The demonstrators were protesting US and NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia, which had begun on the previous day, sparked by brutal ethnic clashes in the Kosovo region. But the question remains: who, if anyone, organized the attempted burning down of the US embassy? Read more of this post

Russia jails man for passing military secrets to US Pentagon

Iskander missile

Iskander missile

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A Serb national was given an eight-year sentence by a Russian court earlier today, for allegedly passing classified information on Russian defense projects to an agent of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Agents with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, arrested the 61-year-old man, named Aleksandar Georgijevic, at a Moscow airport in 2007, as he was reportedly trying to leave Russia. They accused him of giving secret documents to Farid Rafi, whom the Russians claim was “working in the interests of the intelligence agency of the US defense ministry”. Georgijevic’s trial took place behind closed doors. But Russian media report that he began collecting classified information in as early as 1998, focusing primarily on the Russian military’s R-500 supersonic cruise missile, as well as the Iskander, Blokada and Khrizantema-C  tactical missiles. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0105

  • Trial of Serb former intelligence chiefs opens today. The trial of Jovica Stanišić, Director of Serbia’s State Security Service from 1990 until 1998, and Stojan Župljanin, commander of the Bosnian Serb police during the Bosnian war, opens today at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in The Hague. As intelNews has reported before, at least two eponymous CIA agents have admitted that Stanišić was a CIA collaborator from 1991 until 1998.
  • Lithuanian Prime Minister was KGB agent, says board. A Lithuanian commission tasked with uncovering pro-Moscow informants and intelligence agents during the country’s communist period, has concluded that Kazimira Danutė Prunskienė, Lithuania’s first Prime Minister after the country’s 1990 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, secretly collaborated with the Soviet KGB.
  • Congo says it won’t execute Norwegian alleged spies. Norway’s foreign minister says he has been assured that the two Norwegians who were sentenced to death by a Congolese military tribunal last week on spying charges will not be executed.

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Britain says at least 20 countries spying on it

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper has revealed a government report, which states that the UK is a “high priority espionage target” for “at least 20 foreign intelligence services”. The report, issued to UK government departments on January 19, 2009, warns against overlooking traditional espionage threats while focusing almost solely on the activities of al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups. Authored by a group of British Army Intelligence Corps officers, the report identifies Chinese and Russian espionage networks as the most active on British soil, and discloses that “[t]he number of Russian intelligence officers in London has not fallen since the Soviet times”. Read more of this post

French intelligence operatives’ trial resumes in Belgrade

Petrušić

Petrušić

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The trial of a three-member group of French intelligence operatives arrested in Yugoslavia in 1999, on charges of planning to assassinate Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, has resumed for a fourth time in the Serb capital Belgrade. The sensational charges against the three are not unique. Although the intelligence history of NATO’s 1999-2000 war in Yugoslavia has yet to be written, the limited information currently available points to significant intelligence and espionage activity by several European nations in the former Yugoslavia. Most notably, in August 2000, the Yugoslav army captured a covert group of two British (Adrian Pragnell and John Yore) and two Canadian (Shaun Going and Liam Hall) operatives who were captured on Yugoslav soil reportedly without visas and in possession of materials for making sophisticated explosives. All four were eventually released by the post-Slobodan Milosevic Yugoslav government. In another case, a team of four Dutch undercover commandos was intercepted while attempting to cross into Serbia from Montenegro.  Read more of this post

Former UN prosecutor says CIA prevented Serb war criminals’ arrest

Carla Del Ponte

Carla Del Ponte

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Observers of the most recent Balkan Wars in the former Yugoslavia will remember Carla Del Ponte, who was the United Nations’ Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Ms. Del Ponte, who is now Switzerland’s Ambassador to Argentina, has always regretted the UN’s failure to arrest during her ICTY tenure wanted Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic (who was eventually captured in 2008 ) and General Ratko Mladic. She relays these regrets in her new book, Madame Prosecutor, which was published on January 20 by Other Press. Interestingly, the book has been essentially ignored by the mainstream Western media. A single review was published on January 22 in The Economist. Amazingly, the British journal, which is known for its attention to detail, omitted one stunning revelation in Ms. Del Ponte’s book. Namely that, during her ICTY tenure, the UN’s hunt for Karadzic and Mladic was actually obstructed by the CIA and by its then Director George Tenet. Read more of this post

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