Facebook shuts down suspected state effort to prop up Sudanese military regime

Sudan civil unrestFacebook has shut down a well-funded online campaign to support Sudan’s military regime, which some say is part of wider efforts by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to stop democratic reforms in Sudan. The northeast African country has experienced civil unrest for more than a year. In February Sudan’s longtime strongman, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, fell from power after 30 years, following prolonged popular protests. But the new military junta that succeeded him launched a violent campaign of suppression against the country’s pro-democracy movement. The junta’s leaders have relied heavily on ample support provided by three close American allies, namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, the student-led pro-democracy movement has taken to the Internet to mobilize the Sudanese population. The regime has at times shut down the Internet in an attempt to stop pro-democracy organizers from spreading their message online.

Now it has emerged that Facebook detected and terminated a systematic misinformation campaign to promote the views of the Sudanese regime while also slamming the pro-democracy movement as reckless and irresponsible. The campaign was reportedly carried out by two self-described “digital marketing” companies: New Waves, headquartered in Egypt, and Newave, which is based in the Emirates. According to Facebook, the two companies worked in parallel to establish hundreds of fake accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. They also spent nearly $170,000 to promote material that was posted online by an army of paid users. The latter were allegedly paid $180 a month to post disinformation and other forms of carefully directed propaganda on social media. A total of 13.7 million Facebook and Instagram users were reached in the course of the disinformation campaign, according to Facebook. Twitter and Telegram were also employed by the two companies to post messages in favor of the Sudanese military. Other messages extoled the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, as well as Muse Bihi Abdi, president of the self-declared state of Somaliland. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are staunch supporters of both Haftar and Abdi.

Facebook said it had been unable to collect evidence of a direct link between the New Waves/Newave disinformation campaign and the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But it added that the features of the campaign bore the hallmarks of a state-run operation. The New York Times, which reported on the story last week, said the Emirati company, Newave, did not respond to several requests for a comment. Amr Hussein, an Egyptian former military officer who owns the Cairo-based New Wave, issued a public statement calling Facebook “liars” and denying he had any links to the Emirates.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 September 2019 | Permalink

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Analysis: The war between Israel and international arms smugglers

Sinai PeninsulaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The interception earlier this week of a civilian cargo vessel in the southern Red Sea by Israeli commandos has brought to light the ongoing war between weapons smugglers and the Israeli state. The vessel, named Klos-C, was seized by Israeli forces in international waters, over 1,000 miles away from Israel’s coast. Few observers were surprised by the location of the seizure, which took place in the waters between Eritrea and Sudan. Israeli security planners consider the East African country as a major link in the complex smuggling network that supplies goods and weapons to the Gaza Strip. Tel Aviv has long asserted that the smuggled weapons, which usually originate from Iran or Syria, are secretly carried from Port Sudan into Egypt before eventually ending up across the border into the Palestinian enclave that is controlled by militant group Hamas.

Regular readers of this blog will remember the October 2012 Israeli air attack on the outskirts of Sudanese capital Khartoum, which destroyed an alleged illicit weapons warehouse. In May of 2012, a missile attack in Port Sudan, which was also linked to Israel, killed Nasser Awadallah Ahmed Said, an eminent member of the Red Sea’s Ababda Bedouin tribe, whose members have a long history of smuggling weapons and goods to and from Sudan.

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News you may have missed #853

NSA's Utah Data CenterBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Meltdowns hobble NSA data center. Electrical surges at the National Security Agency’s massive data center in Utah have delayed the opening of the facility for a year as well as destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars in kit, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ten “meltdowns” in the past 13 months have repeatedly delayed the Herculean effort to get the spy agency’s colossal snooping facility up and running, according to project documents reviewed by the newspaper.
►►Uganda expels Sudan diplomat accused of spying. Sudanese diplomat Jad-el-Seed Mohammed Elhag has been expelled from Uganda on suspicion of espionage, Ugandan foreign ministry officials said Tuesday. “The reasons why he was expelled was that the activities he was involved in were beyond the norms and requirements of his tenure”, Uganda Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Tayebwa Katureebe said. “These are issues of diplomacy and of two countries, which are not addressed normally in the press, but basically the main reason was espionage”, he said, declining to go into detail.
►►FBI accused of using no-fly list to recruit informants. A lawsuit in New York alleges that the FBI is violating the law by putting Muslim-Americans on the no-fly list not because of a “reasonable suspicion” of terrorist associations, but as a form of blackmail to coerce them into becoming informants at mosques and in their communities. Is this the beginning of the end for the US federal government’s no-fly list? According to the complaint, New York resident Muhammad Tanvir landed on the no-fly list after refusing an FBI request to work as an informant in his predominantly Muslim community.

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

Analysis: Iranian-Israeli proxy war flares up in Sudan

Sudan and South SudanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
While much of the world focuses on the effects of hurricane Sandy in the eastern United States, the proxy war between Israel and Iran continues to flare up, this time in Africa. Last week, the government of Sudan accused Israeli of being behind a surprise bombing of a weapons factory in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. According to Sudan’s Minister of Information, Ahmed Belal Osman, four Israeli Air Force jets invaded Sudanese airspace and struck the Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, inflicting heavy damages. There are unconfirmed claims that the factory was operated by the Iranian government and produced weapons that were smuggled through the Sinai Peninsula into the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Palestinian group Hamas. On Tuesday, almost exactly a week after the alleged Israeli bombing took place, two Iranian warships arrived in Port Sudan, the country’s most important harbor, located on the Red Sea. The arrival of the vessels was confirmed by Iranian news agency IRNA, which said a helicopter carrier and a destroyer had docked at Port Sudan. The news agency, which is owned by the Iranian government, said the arrival of the ships was meant to contribute to anti-piracy efforts in the Red Sea. But non-Iranian news media, including British newspaper The Independent, quote observers who view the ships’ arrival in Sudan as an Iranian “show of support” for the Sudanese government. According to this explanation, Tehran’s decision to send the ships to the East African country is part of an ongoing proxy war between Iran and Israel taking place throughout the region. Read more of this post

Norway, Sudan, expel diplomats over spying allegations

PST headquarters in OsloBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Norway and Sudan have announced tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions over allegations of espionage. On Tuesday, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that a Sudanese diplomat stationed in the Norwegian capital Oslo would be expelled. The diplomat, whose name and position at the Sudanese embassy were not disclosed, allegedly engaged in “activities incompatible with his status under the protection of the Vienna Convention” —standard diplomatic lingo for espionage. The Reuters news agency reported that the diplomat was expelled after Norway’s main counterintelligence intelligence agency, the Police Security Service (PST), arrested and charged a 38-year-old Sudanese immigrant with espionage. The unnamed man, who was arrested in Trondheim, said he had been instructed by Sudanese embassy personnel to spy on the activities of the Sudanese expatriate community in Norway. He had previously been observed by the PST having a meeting with the same Sudanese diplomat who was subsequently expelled from Norway. Both men were arrested on Tuesday. While the unnamed diplomat has been expelled, the 38-year-old immigrant remains imprisoned in Oslo on espionage charges. According to a statement from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tuesday’s arrests marked the first case of ‘immigration intelligence’-related charges in the Scandinavian country since the 1970s. Early on Wednesday, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was expelling a Norwegian diplomat in response to Oslo’s move on the previous day. Read more of this post

Car explosion in Port Sudan linked to Israel

Blast site in Port SudanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A powerful car explosion, which rocked Sudan’s main port on Tuesday, killing one person, has been linked to Israel by Sudanese government officials. The car was blown up by what appears to have been a missile attack, in Port Sudan, a city of over half a million people on the Red Sea. A local reporter told Reuters news agency that the blast site featured “two small but deep holes” and “another hole beneath” what was left of the gutted car. Many observers consider Port Sudan, an ancient city that has traditionally connected Sudan with Egypt in the north and Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea, as a major link in the complex smuggling network that supplies goods and weapons to the Gaza Strip. Israel has long asserted that the smuggled items are secretly carried from Port Sudan into Egypt, before eventually ending up in the Palestinian enclave that is controlled by militant group Hamas. The government of Sudan vehemently denies these charges. But a “local security source” in Port Sudan told Reuters that the car’s driver, Nasser Awadallah Ahmed Said, who was killed in the blast, was an eminent member of the Red Sea’s Ababda Bedouin tribe, whose members have a long history of smuggling weapons and goods to and from Sudan. Speaking on Tuesday, Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Ahmed Karti, stopped just short of directly fingering Israel as the culprit of the attack. Karti, who is Sudan’s most senior government official to have so far commented on the blast, told local news media that “the style of the car explosion was similar to Israel’s attack on [Sudan’s] Red Sea State [province] last year”. He was referring to a similar incident that took place in April of last year in the very same province where Port Sudan is located. At that time, Khartoum directly blamed Israel for the strike. Read more of this post