European, American, Russian fighters join both sides of Syrian war

Regional map of SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Nearly three years into the Syrian Civil War, it is becoming increasingly clear that the opposition forces are far more fragmented than the government side. Many of the rebel factions are now largely concerned with fighting each other for control of territory and other key assets, including oil installations and cross-border trade routes. Amidst the chaos, thousands of foreign fighters are flooding into the country, motivated by ideology or money. It is estimated that between 6,000 and 11,000 foreign fighters have entered Syria since the war, causing United States intelligence officials to speak of “a growing presence of foreigners” in the ranks of armed factions. At least 300 British citizens are estimated to have traveled to Syria with the intent of joining the Civil War, according to The Times of London. Most of them are young Islamist radicals who are intent on helping topple the administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the paper. Another British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, reported recently that four British citizens —all London residents— died recently in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, while fighting alongside government troops in support of President Assad. They were fighting against the al-Nusra Front, an opposition group with strong links to al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, The New York Times said on Wednesday that “dozens of Americans” have entered or tried to enter Syria to join various rebel factions in their fight against the government. The paper cited unnamed “American intelligence officials” in alleging that the Americans are a “small subset” of a larger group of “roughly 600” Western-born Islamists who have entered Syria from Western Europe, North America and Australia since 2011. The ongoing conflict has also attracted hundreds of Russian fighters, according to reports. Foreign Policy magazine notes the “rising flow” of radical Islamists from the Russian Federation to Syria in recent months. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #706

Akhmed ZakayevBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►UK government accuses Chechen of assassination plot. The British government and intelligence services have accused an alleged henchman of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov of seeking to assassinate Akhmed Zakayev, a prominent exiled Chechen politician in London, who was granted asylum there in 2003. According to court documents, British government lawyers asking to deport a 45-year-old, Chechen-born, former elite soldier, referred to only as E1. They told judges that E1 was a threat to national security and had been implicated in a 2009 assassination on behalf of Mr Kadyrov in Vienna. Mr Zakayev, a former actor and self-described separatist leader, said in a recent interview that he believed “there are more Russian spies in Britain today than there were during the Cold War”.
►►Israeli ex-soldiers arrested in Colombia on drugs charges. Eight Israelis have been arrested in Colombia on suspicion of drug trafficking, money laundering and exploitation of minors, the country’s chief prosecutor has told local media outlets. The suspects, who were described in the reports as “former military men”, include former Israeli army Lt. Col. Yair Klein, who was convicted by a Colombian court and sentenced in absentia to nearly 11 years in prison for training drug traffickers’ assassins in the late 1980s. US and British investigations determined two decades ago that Klein was also involved in smuggling 400 Galil assault rifles and 100 Uzi sub-machine guns bought from Israeli into Colombia in 1989 when his plans to create a mercenary-ran training camp on the Caribbean island of Antigua unraveled.
►►Lawyer alleges MI6 agent was killed by ‘secret services’. A coroner has been told that Gareth Williams, an MI6 spy found dead inside a locked duffle bag in his London apartment could have been killed by someone who specialized in “the dark arts of the secret services”. The allegation was made by Anthony O’Toole, who represented the Williams family at an interim hearing ahead of the full inquest into Gareth Williams’ death. O’Toole said that there was “a high probability that there was a third party present in the flat” at the time. He added that “the unknown third party was a member of some agency specializing in the dark arts of the secret services, and perhaps evidence was removed from the scene post mortem by an expert in those dark arts”.

Were British-funded mercenaries protecting Gaddafi in his final moments?

Muammar al-Gaddafi

Gaddafi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The South African intelligence services are reportedly investigating reports that a British security company was providing protection for Muammar al-Gaddafi when he was killed by rebels. On October 20, the Libyan leader and his armed entourage were traveling from his hometown of Sirte toward the Libya-Niger border, when they were hit by NATO missiles. Colonel Gaddafi was later captured and lynched by armed rebels loyal to Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC). But British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports that an unnamed British security company was paid millions of dollars by the Libyan leader to smuggle him out of Sirte and into Niger. According to The Telegraph, the company is now under investigation by South African authorities, because one of its agents, a woman based in Kenya, allegedly recruited at least 19 South African mercenaries for the operation to exfiltrate Gaddafi from Libya. The 19 joined a group of approximately 50 mercenaries, who were sent to Libya and were with the Libyan leader when he was captured by the NTC rebels on October 20. The paper says that several members of the mercenary group were former associates of Simon Mann, a British former Special Forces (SAS) officer who was arrested in Zimbabwe in 2004 while planning a coup against Teodoro Obiang, longtime dictator of energy-rich Equatorial Guinea. The Telegraph article quotes Danie Odendaal, a former member of South Africa’s apartheid-era security services, who claims he was among Gaddafi’s armed entourage during his capture on October 20. Odendaal claims that many South Africans were injured and at least two were killed along with Gaddafi. Read more of this post

Did Australian bodyguard help Gaddafi’s son flee to Niger?

Gary Peters

Gary Peters

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Australian private security consultant is accused of having helped one of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi’s sons escape to relative safety in Niger. For several years, Gary Peters, who lives in Ontario, Canada, worked as a personal bodyguard for Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi, the third oldest son of Libya’s deceased former leader. A few days ago, Peters, who is now back in Canada, told the country’s National Post newspaper that he led “an international security team” tasked with exfiltrating Saadi Gaddafi to the African country of Niger, located immediately to the south of Libya. He also told the paper that he was injured when the three-car convoy carrying Gaddafi’s international security team came under fire as it returned to Libya from Niger. But he said he only “discovered” his injuries while onboard a flight back to Toronto, and was subsequently hospitalized in Canada. Now the paper hosts comments from Nada Basir, spokesperson of the Canadian Libyan Council, which has called for an official investigation into whether Peters broke international laws and sanctions imposed on Libya, by helping a member of the Gaddafi family escape abroad. As with other members of Libya’s former ruling family, Saadi Gaddafi is wanted by INTERPOL, which has issued an international arrest warrant in his name. Basir told The Post that it was an insult to have a Canadian resident apparently defy the NATO mission in Libya, to which the government of Canada is party; he added that Canada’s Libyan community hopes that the government takes this issue seriously. Peters previously told the newspaper that he had been interviewed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but that no charges had been filed against him. Read more of this post

Was French mercenary a ‘spy for Gaddafi’?

Pierre Marziali

Pierre Marziali

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Back in May of 2011, The New York Times reported that the co-founder of one of France’s largest private security firms had been shot dead in rebel-held Benghazi. His name was Pierre Marziali, a former paratrooper, who in 2003 co-founded Secopex, described as France’s leading private security company. At first, the rebels blamed his death on “gangs that the old regime used”. But a few days later, a press release by the rebel National Transitional Council alleged that the dead Frenchman had been shot because he was among several French “spies hired by the Gaddafi regime”. The story gets murkier when one considers that, according to the Times, Marziali had gone to Libya “on a mission which, I believe, had been ordered by France”. This should not surprise anyone. As intelNews reported on August 23, Western governments have instructed Libya’s rebel authority to use Western-supplied funds to hire Western-based mercenary companies; this ensures plausible deniability on the part of the rebels’ Western allies, while allowing them to engage with boots on the ground outside the NATO command structure. But why would members of a private security firm based in France —a country that supports the Libyan opposition— be spying for Muammar al-Gaddafi? The case of Marziali’s death shows that not everything is what it seems in Libya. Nobody seems to have information about Secopex’s precise operational mission in the North African nation. But, according to Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, it appears that the Libyan rebels tried to apprehend Marziali and four other Frenchmen employees of Secopex, after noticing that their passports had Libyan entry stamps from Tripoli —an indication that they had entered the country with the blessings of the Gaddafi regime. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #518

  • Pakistan to intensify intel collaboration with China. Pakistan has assured China of full co-operation in providing intelligence about the activities of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which aims to separate Xinjiang, an autonomous region, from China.
  • US spy community launches ‘Analytical Olympics’. This new competition for analysts to see who makes the best predictions, was outlined in a recent report by the US National Research Council, which suggests practical ways to apply insights from the behavioral and social sciences to the intelligence community.
  • UAE mercenaries say they have no Blackwater contacts. Michael Roumi, president of Reflex Responses, a company training foreign mercenary troops for the United Arab Emirates, has told the US State Department and members of Congress that Erik Prince, the former head of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide, plays no role in operating the business.

News you may have missed #509 (Blackwater edition)