Kenyan state accused of role in killings of prominent Muslims

Site of Butt's assassinationBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Human rights groups have accused the Kenyan government of being behind a spate of assassinations of prominent Muslims in the country, after a controversial Muslim businessman was shot dead in his car last week. Kenyan authorities had accused Mohamed Shahid Butt, a vocal Muslim entrepreneur, who owned several business ventures in the city of Mombasa, of inciting terrorism. He was due to appear in court in August to face charges of funding radical Muslim youth groups in Mombasa and instructing them to drive out moderate Muslim clerics from area mosques. According to court documents, the Kenyan government has been investigating several back accounts belonging to Mr. Butt, as part of a wider probe into alleged terrorism funding. However, on Friday evening the prominent businessman was gunned down in his car in Mombasa’s Chaani district by two men who then escaped, firing automatic rifles in the air. Mr. Butt was reportedly returning to downtown Mombasa from the Moi International Airport, after picking up his son who had arrived there on a flight from London. At approximately 8:15 p.m., Mr. Butt’s car was blocked and brought to a halt by another vehicle. As soon as his car was immobilized, two men emerged from the other vehicle and shot the businessman at close range before driving off. Mr. Butt died at the scene, while his son was slightly injured. Friday’s incident was the latest in a string of assassinations of prominent Muslims in the Mombasa region during the past two years. This past June, Sheikh Mohammed Idris, a moderate Sunni imam who chaired the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, became the fourth prominent Muslim cleric to have been shot dead in Mombasa since 2012. Prior to his assassination, Idris had been ousted from Mombasa’s Sakina mosque, where Mr. Butt had been an elder. The mosque has since become an enclave of radical Muslims and has been renamed to Mujahedeen (holy warrior) mosque. Muslim and human rights groups accuse the Kenyan government of conducting the assassinations, in an attempt to neutralize what it sees as domestic enemies of the state. Read more of this post

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Brussels Jewish museum shooting spree ‘could be tied to intelligence’

Shooting aftermathBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Belgian police investigating last weekend’s shooting spree at a Jewish heritage center in Brussels do not rule out the possibility that the attack may have been part of an intelligence operation directed against Israeli agents. The incident occurred on Saturday at the Musee Juif de Belgique, located in the heart of the Belgian capital. A man wearing a dark-colored jacket, baseball cap and sunglasses walked in the museum in broad daylight, pulled a Kalashnikov rifle out of a bag, and opened fire, killing three people. A fourth person remains in critical condition. Observers initially classified the shooting as an anti-Semitic attack. There is speculation, however, that the bloody assault may have been a targeted assassination that was part of a wider intelligence war between Israel, Iran, and Lebanese-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Several counterterrorism experts, including Claude Moniquet, Co-Director of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, have expressed the view that the shooter appeared to be a trained professional. Referring to publicly available surveillance footage of the shooting, Moniquet said that the perpetrator of the attack, who remains at large, behaved as “an unemotional murderer, someone who had already witnessed death and perhaps killed before”. Moniquet’s comments came shortly after an article by Amir Oren, military affairs correspondent for Israeli daily Ha’aretz, in which he suggested that the attack may have been an act of retaliation by Iranian or Hezbollah operatives, who have been engaged in a lengthy tit-for-tat war with Israeli intelligence since at least 2009. Oren noted that two of the victims of the attack, Emmanuel and Mira Riva , were civil service accountants who had spent years in government service. Read more of this post

Former director of Venezuelan spy agency shot dead in Caracas

Eliézer OtaizaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The former director of Venezuela’s primary intelligence agency has been found shot dead. Venezuelan officials said Eliézer Otaiza was shot dead sometime in the early hours of Saturday morning in Baruta, a suburb in the outskirts of capital Caracas. His bullet-ridden vehicle was later found abandoned in another part of the same barrio. Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, told reporters on Tuesday that Otaiza’s body was discovered on Saturday, but that it took nearly two days for him to be identified due to the absence of identification documents on the body. At the time of his assassination, Otaiza headed the Libertador Bolivarian Municipality in Caracas which numbers over two million residents. Earlier in his career, however, Otaiza led an elite unit of the personal guard corps of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The latter also appointed him director of the National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP), later renamed Bolivarian Intelligence Service, which is today Venezuela’s foremost intelligence organization. Otaiza was known as a stalwart supporter of Venezuela’s populist president, even in the early 1990s, when Chavez was still in opposition. In February of 1992, when Chavez led a failed military coup aimed at ousting President Carlos Andres Perez, Otaiza had been unable to participate on account of his absence from Venezuela. But he played a leading role in another pro-Chavez military mutiny in November of that year, when he led a small military force attempting to storm the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. He was shot several times in the chest but survived thanks to a bulletproof vest he was wearing. Venezuelan government media said Otaiza played “an important part in the events leading to the Bolivarian revolution”, and remained a strong supporter of Chavez throughout the president’s life. Read more of this post

CEO of private bank shot dead in Liechtenstein

Bank FrickBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The chief executive officer of a private bank in the alpine principality of Liechtenstein has been shot dead at the bank’s headquarters, according to reports. Liechtenstein police said Monday that a 48-year-old bank executive had been shot dead inside the underground car park of the bank’s headquarters. The report said the fatal shooting took place in the village of Balzers, located near Liechtenstein’s border with Switzerland. The police statement did not name the bank or the executive. Later on Monday, however, Swiss news outlet Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (The Voice of Switzerland) identified the shooting victim as Jürgen Frick, CEO of Bank Frick. Headquartered in Balzers, the family-run bank was founded in 1998 as a private financial establishment. In addition to its Liechtenstein office, Bank Frick also maintains a branch in London’s Mayfair district, in the United Kingdom. Liechtenstein police said on Monday it was looking for a suspected gunman, identified as Jürgen Hermann, a former fund manager, who was spotted in the bank’s surveillance cameras around the time of the shooting. Hermann, who lives in Liechtenstein’s Mauren municipality, was also seen fleeing the scene of the crime in Smart car. Swiss media later reported that Hermann describes himself on his personal website as “the Robin Hood of Liechtenstein” and as the tax-haven’s “public enemy No. 1”. German media said Hermann has been involved in longstanding feuds with the government of Liechtenstein over “financial issues”. In his website, the suspected shooter has uploaded statements demanding that the government of Liechtenstein returns to him “investments worth millions”, which were allegedly “destroyed by the financial mafia of Liechtenstein”. The principality’s police say they found Hermann’s driver license and passport thrown by the side of a road near the river Rhine, and suspect that Hermann might have killed himself. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #875 (CIA edition)

Boris PasternakBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Ex-CIA head criticizes Pollard release rumors. General Michael Hayden, the former Director of the CIA, said Sunday that he doesn’t think releasing Jonathan Pollard to save the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is a good idea. Hayden, a Bush administration appointee, told Fox News Sunday that “it’s almost a sign of desperation that you would throw this into the pot in order to keep the Israelis talking with the Palestinians”.
►►CIA official dies in apparent suicide. An unnamed senior CIA official has died in an apparent suicide this week from injuries sustained after jumping off a building in northern Virginia. A source close to the agency said the man who died was a middle manager and the incident occurred after the man jumped from the fifth floor a building in Fairfax County. CIA spokesman Christopher White confirmed the death and said the incident did not take place at CIA headquarters in McLean, Va.
►►How the CIA turned Doctor Zhivago into a Cold War weapon. Newly disclosed documents indicate that the operation to publish Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago in several Eastern European languages was run by the CIA’s Soviet Russia Division, monitored by CIA director Allen Dulles and sanctioned by President Dwight Eisenhower’s Operations Coordinating Board, which reported to the National Security Council at the White House. The board, which oversaw covert activities, gave the CIA exclusive control over the novel’s “exploitation”. The “hand of the United States government” was “not to be shown in any manner”, according to CIA records. IntelNews has reported previously on allegations that the CIA may have influenced teh Swedish Academy’s decision to award the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature to Pasternak.

Coroner’s report sees Russian state behind ex-KGB spy’s death

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A previously classified report by the British government official who certified the 2006 death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko states that the Russian state was directly implicated in the murder. Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the UK. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting former KGB/FSB colleague Andrey Lugovoy at a London restaurant. Many suspect that the Russian government is behind Litvinenko’s murder. In February of last year, Litvinenko’s family accused the British government of trying to block a probe into the murder case, after British Foreign Secretary William Hague limited the scope of a public inquest in to the matter on national security grounds. Supporters of Litvinenko have argued that White Hall has played down the Litvinenko murder case in order to preserve its trade ties with Russia’s government-owned energy companies. Members of the murdered spy’s family are now pushing for a full public inquiry into the incident, and are currently making the case before a specially appointed panel of judges at the High Court. In the course of this appeal, a previously classified document has emerged, which contains the report of Sir Robert Owen, the coroner who first examined the available evidence immediately after Litvinenko’s death. According to the document, which has been seen by the BBC, the coroner concluded that, based on “documents held by the UK government”, the “culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko” could be established “prima facie”. Read more of this post

Exiled Rwandan ex-spymaster found murdered in South Africa

Patrick KaregeyaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The former head of Rwanda’s external intelligence agency, who had been branded an ‘enemy of the state’ by the Rwandan government, was murdered last week in South Africa. Police in Johannesburg said the body of Patrick Karegeya, 53, was found in a room at the luxury Michelangelo Towers Hotel, where he had gone to meet a fellow Rwandan. His neck was abnormally swollen and showed signs of strangulation; a rope and a bloodied towel were found tucked inside the hotel room’s safe. Karegeya was a leading member of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the armed wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which was founded in 1987 in Uganda by Rwandan Tutsi refugees. In 1994, the RPA, led by Paul Kagame, took control of Rwanda, thus ending the genocide of up to a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which had taken place earlier that year. Soon afterwards, Karegeya was named Director General of External Intelligence in the RPA, which was renamed to Rwandan Defense Forces. In 2004 however, after falling out with Kagame, who had become President of Rwanda in 2000, Karegeya was arrested, stripped of his rank of colonel, and served 18 months in prison for “insubordination and desertion”. He fled the country in 2007 and received political asylum in South Africa. The Rwandan government later claimed that Karegeya had been a double spy for South Africa. In 2010, Karegeya teamed up with General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who used to head the Rwandan Army, and had also escaped to South Africa after falling out with President Kagame. The two formed a new Rwandan opposition party in-exile, called the Rwanda National Congress. The response from the government in Kigali was to try Karegeya and Nyamwasa in absentia in a military court. They were both sentenced to lengthy prison terms for “promoting ethnic divisions” in the country. In 2011, the Rwandan government issued international arrest warrants for the two former military men, but South Africa refused to extradite them. Since then, General Nyamwasa has survived two assassination attempts against him in South Africa. The BBC notes that other former allies of President Kagame, who have received political asylum in the West, have been warned by Western intelligence agencies that their lives may be in danger. Read more of this post

Czech police find weapons in house of late Palestinian diplomat

Palestinian diplomatic residence in PragueBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Authorities in the Czech Republic said they found several weapons in the residence of a Palestinian diplomat who died in a mysterious explosion on New Year’s Day. Jamal al-Jamal, who had assumed the post of Palestinian Ambassador to the Czech Republic in October, died in hospital on Wednesday, having suffered lethal injuries to his chest, abdomen and head. Czech authorities said the 56-year-old was killed by an explosion caused as he opened a safe that had been transferred to his residence from the old Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in downtown Prague. Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad al-Malki said on Wednesday the safe al-Jamal was trying to open at the time of the explosion had come from the old PLO offices in downtown Prague where “no one had touched it for 20 to 25 years”. He added that the blast was triggered just moments after al-Jamal opened the safe in order to record its contents. On Thursday, however, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that several unregistered weapons had been found by police in the official residence of the late diplomat. The statement did not identify the weapons, but Czech government sources expressed concern that the discovery might suggest “a breach in diplomatic rules”. Czech law specifies that all firearms must be registered with the government and permits are compulsory for all who possess them. On Thursday afternoon, US-based news network CNN contacted Czech National Police, and was told by spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova that “several illegal firearms” had been seized by police in al-Jamal’s newly built apartment, located in Prague’s northern suburb of Suchdol. Diplomatic observers will be watching with interest for Prague’s response to these revelations, as the Czech Republic is considered among Israel’s closest allies in the European Union. During the communist era, Czechoslovakia was a staunch ally of the PLO. But successive Czech administrations have sided with Israel in recent years. Read more of this post

Bizarre explosion kills Palestinian diplomat in Prague

Jamal al-JamalBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The ambassador of Palestine to the Czech Republic was pronounced dead yesterday following injuries he sustained from a mysterious explosion at his residence. Czech police said Jamal al-Jamal died in hospital on New Year ’s Day, having suffered lethal injuries to his chest, abdomen and head. According to early indications, the 56-year-old diplomat was killed by an explosion caused as he opened a safe that had been transferred to his residence from the old Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in downtown Prague. During the Cold War, the PLO, which al-Jamal joined in 1975, maintained close relations with most of the nations of the communist bloc, including what was then Czechoslovakia. The organization, which was led by Fatah leader Yasser Arafat, maintained an office in the Czechoslovakian capital. However, according to the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad al-Malki, the Palestinian National Authority is currently in the process of moving its diplomatic premises from downtown Prague to the northern suburb of Suchdol, adjacent to the two-story building that housed Ambassador al-Jamal and his family. Al-Maliki said that the safe al-Jamal was trying to open at the time of the explosion had come from the old PLO offices in downtown Prague where “no one had touched it for 20 to 25 years”. He added that the blast was triggered just moments after al-Jamal opened the safe in order to record its contents, prior to having it moved to the new premises of the Palestinian diplomatic mission next door. “After he decided to open [the safe], apparently something happened inside and [it] went off”, said the minister. Read more of this post

Further evidence shows Litvinenko worked for MI6 when killed

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In 2012, a court in the United Kingdom was told that former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died of poisoning in 2006, had been working for British and Spanish intelligence when he was killed. Now British newspaper The Independent says it has proof that the late Russian spy provided “expert analysis” on Russian politics for British intelligence, shortly before his death. Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the UK. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. Many suspect that the Russian government is behind Litvinenko’s murder. But the dead spy’s family has argued for years that his killers did not only kill an intelligence defector, but also an officer of British intelligence. On Thursday, The Independent said it had seen a diplomatic memo that was given to Litvnenko for analysis by British external intelligence agency MI6. The document, known in the British Foreign Office lingo as a “diptel” (diplomatic telegram), was dispatched to several British embassies around the world in 2000. It includes a descriptive analysis of a confidential meeting in London between British intelligence officials and Sergei Ivanov. Currently a political powerhouse in Putin’s administration, Ivanon was at the time an unknown quantity in Western circles. He had entered politics after having spent nearly two decades working for Soviet and Russian external intelligence. The diptel seen by The Independent outlines the exchange of views between Ivanov and the British officials during the meeting, and evaluates his stance on a broad range of issues, ranging from the rise of Islamic militancy, to China, the Middle East, and the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Read more of this post

Arafat ‘may have been poisoned’, claims Swiss forensic report

Yasser ArafatBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A forensic investigation by Swiss researchers into the death of Yasser Arafat states that the data “moderately suggests” that the Palestinian statesman may have been poisoned with a deadly radioactive substance. The founder of Palestinian nationalist group Fatah, who led the Palestine Liberation Organization for over three decades before becoming the first president of the Palestinian Authority, passed away in November 2004 at the Percy military hospital in Paris, France. His official records indicate that he died from a stroke, which he suffered as a result of a blood disorder known as disseminated intravascular coagulation. However, a year-long investigation by a team of forensic pathologists at the Vaudois University Hospital Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, suggests that the late Palestinian leader is likely to have been poisoned with radioactive polonium. According to the results of the study, published by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera, tests on Arafat’s bones and on soil samples from around his corpse, showed “unexpected high activity” of polonium 210. Traces of the same substance were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days while in hospital in Paris. According to the study, some of the Fatah leader’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. The BBC spoke to Dr. Paddy Regan, of the University of Surrey, United Kingdom, who specializes in the detection and measurement of radiation. He said the Swiss study had delivered “a pretty strong statement” in support of the theory that Arafat was poisoned. Read more of this post

Medical review article considers Arafat poisoning theory

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The publication of a peer reviewed article in one of the world’s leading medical journals has reinforced the possibility that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have died of poisoning. A nine-month study into the possible poisoning of the founder of Palestinian nationalist group Fatah, was commissioned in 2012 by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera. It was undertaken by a team of researchers at the Institut de Radiophysique (IRA) in Lausanne, Switzerland. According to the results, announced in July of that year, significant traces of the radioactive substance polonium 210 were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days while in hospital in Paris, France, in 2004. According to the IRA, some of the Fatah leader’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. Shortly after the IRA study, Arafat’s wife and daughter filed an official complaint with French judicial authorities, who in turn decided to open an official murder investigation into the death of the late Palestinian national leader. Now British medical journal The Lancet has published a peer reviewed analysis of the IRA research, which outlines and endorses its conclusions. The article, entitled “Improving forensic investigation for polonium poisoning”, was authored by a group of researchers at the IRA in Lausanne and at the University Centre of Legal Medicine, which is also in Switzerland. It explains the procedures followed during the forensic investigation of  Arafat’s belongings, and examines the theory that Arafat may have been poisoned. The researchers state that the “findings [of the investigation] support the possibility of Arafat’s poisoning with 210Po”. Read more of this post

US court dismisses lawsuit against CIA over scientist’s death

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A United States federal court has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Central Intelligence Agency over an alleged murder of an American Department of Defense scientist, which occurred in 1953. The lawsuit concerned the case of Dr. Frank Olson, a specialist in biological warfare working for the US Pentagon at Fort Detrick, Maryland. It appears that Olson, who studied the effects of toxins on the brain, participated —knowingly or unknowingly— in Project MKNAOMI/ MKULTRA. The project was a joint effort by the CIA and the US military to study the effects of substances such as heroin and LSD on the human brain. On November 28, 1953, Dr. Olson fell to his death from the window of his room on the 13th floor of New York City’s Statler Hotel. In an internal report that was declassified in 1975, the US government admitted that Dr. Olson had been assigned the task of military-scientific liaison with the CIA’s Technical Services Staff —the unit in charge of MKULTRA. Moreover, the report disclosed that the late scientist had been administered LSD by his CIA colleagues without his knowledge nine days prior to his sudden death. Ever since the report was aired, Dr. Olson’s family has maintained that the scientist did not voluntarily plunge from his hotel window on November 28, 1953. Rather, they claim, he was pushed to his death by CIA personnel, after he raised strong objections against the testing of chemical and biological substances on non-consenting human subjects by the Agency’s Technical Services Staff. But US District Judge James Boasberg ruled that, although the CIA had yet to come clean on the controversial history of MKULTRA, the lawsuit by Dr. Olson’s family had been “filed too late”; he added in his ruling that an earlier settlement between the dead scientist’s family and the US government effectively barred the possibility of a new lawsuit. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #826 (suspicious deaths edition)

Pablo Neruda (right) and Salvador AllendeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Key suspect in Russian spy murder refuses to cooperate. Andrey Lugovoi, who is now an elected official in Russia, says he will not talk even by video to British investigators about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London just over six years ago. The murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, has never been solved and remains the subject of conflicting narratives and still-deepening intrigue over who may have killed him and why.
►►Exhumation of Neruda’s remains set for April. A court in Chile has set April 8 as the date for the exhumation of the remains of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, as part of an inquest into his death. The poet and leftwing activist died 12 days after a military coup replaced the socialist President Salvador Allende with General Augusto Pinochet. The poet’s family maintains that he died at 69 of advanced prostate cancer. But in 2011, Chile started investigating allegations by his former driver, Manuel Araya Osorio, that the poet had been poisoned.
►►Venezuela to investigate Chavez murder allegations. Venezuelan officials have said they will set up an inquiry to investigate suspicions that President Hugo Chavez was “murdered by foreign agencies”. Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told the BBC the United States and Israel were to blame for Chavez’s death, and that he had no doubt that Chavez’s death was an act “similar to Yasser Arafat’s“. Earlier this week, the US expelled two Venezuelan diplomats following the expulsion of two American officials from Caracas.

News you may have missed #825

Ben ZygierBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Australian Mossad officer was facing 20 years in prison. Mossad operative Ben Zygier was facing 20 years in prison on “serious espionage” charges when he hanged himself in an Israeli prison, suggests a report published Wednesday by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The report is the first confirmation of the nature of Zygier’s indictment. Under Israeli criminal law, the only security-related crimes that carry a 20-year prison sentence fall under the heading of “serious espionage”.
►►MS-13 smuggles missile launchers and teams up with Zetas. Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, became El Salvador’s deadliest gang through force of numbers and the power of the handgun. Now if they weren’t deadly enough, the gang is transitioning into adopting heavier weapons while teaming up with Mexico’s Zetas. But according to a recent report, the gang is moving “away from a dependence on handguns via the acquisition of automatic rifles such as AK-47s, along with grenades, rocket propelled grenade launchers, and Light Anti-Tank Weapons”, or LAWs.
►►Secretive US anti-smuggling program marks one-year anniversary. A nascent and somewhat secretive US government anti-smuggling program is marking its first anniversary this week. It is called E2C2, shorthand for Export Enforcement Coordination Center, and 18 law enforcement and intelligence agencies use it to find links between their targets and other investigations. The E2C2 was created by presidential order in 2010, but the collaboration has evolved slowly. According to a Government Accountability Office report, the E2C2 opened nine months late, in part because of “some difficultly” between agencies over how the center would operate.

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