DDMA Headline Animator

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Pakistan pushes back on U.S. F-16 sale opposition

By Geoff Ziezulewicz
May 10, 2016

WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- Pakistani officials are pushing back against concerns from U.S. lawmakers over a planned $700 million F-16 fighter jet sale.

The country needs the eight F-16s for its battle against terrorists, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said Saturday, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn. As such, Chaudhry said, no conditions should be attached to the jet sale, Dawn reported.

The deal initially called for Pakistan to foot roughly $270 million of the $699 million price tag, with the rest coming from the U.S. Foreign Military Financing fund, according to Dawn.

But the proposed plan, announced on the U.S. side in February, has come under fire from U.S. politicians concerned over Pakistan's track record battling Islamist extremism and how such a sale could affect tensions with neighboring India. The deal would also include training, maintenance and logistical support.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker, R-Tenn., allowed the F-16 sale to go forward in February, but he used his power as a chairman to block any U.S. help in bankrolling the deal, Politico reported.

Senators from both sides of the aisle questioned the wisdom of selling the F-16s to Pakistan.

"The Pakistanis have been an unreliable partner over the course of the last 10 years in the fight against extremism," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on the Senate floor. "But what I worry more is that these F-16s will provide cover, will provide substitute for truly meaningful action inside Pakistan to take on the roots of extremism."

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted the deal go through as planned. "It is pretty standard to help with the financing, especially of countries that one, are not very wealthy, and two are our allies," McCain said. "And it's important they have these capabilities."

U.S. House members have also expressed concerns about the sale recently.

U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., criticized "the Administration's recent attempt to subsidize with taxpayer dollars the sale of F-16s to Pakistan" during an April 27 Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

"Many Members of Congress, including me, seriously question the judgment and timing of such a sale," Salmon said in his opening statement. "Additionally, India-Pakistan tensions remain elevated, and some question whether the F-16s could ultimately be used against India or other regional powers, rather than the terrorists as Pakistan has asserted."

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2016/05/10/Pakistan-pushes-back-on-US-F-16-sale-opposition/8441462804091/.

Hundreds flee northern Iraq as fighting rages on

July 3, 2016

Hundreds of families have fled northern Iraq as fighting rages on between Iraqi forces and Daesh militants, according to the Ministry of Migration and Displacement.

In a Saturday statement, ministry official Muhannad Saleh said 455 families have fled the northern Salahuddin province in the past two days.

“The ministry is pursuing efforts to evacuate and welcome families displaced from liberated areas,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi army launched an offensive north of the Salahuddin province with a view to recapturing Daesh-held areas.

The city of Sharqat is currently the only remaining area controlled by Daesh in the Salahuddin province.

According to Salahuddin mayor Ahmed al-Jabouri, more than 350,000 people are still trapped in Sharqat. Efforts are underway to liberate the area,” he said, going on to call for providing aid to these families.

UN estimates that more than two million Iraqis will flee northern Iraq following an expected Iraqi offensive to recapture Mosul from Daesh. Last week, the Iraqi army, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, retook the city of Fallujah from Daesh after a more than one-month battle.

Iraq has suffered a devastating security vacuum since mid-2014, when Daesh captured Mosul and overran large swathes of territory in the northern and western parts of the country.

According to the UN, more than 3.4 million people are now displaced in Iraq — more than half of them children — while more than 10 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160703-hundreds-flee-northern-iraq-as-fighting-rages-on/.

EXCLUSIVE: Iraqi troops pay heavy price for Fallujah victory

Friday 1 July 2016

Suadad al-Salhy

BAGHDAD – Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers were killed and more than 3,000 wounded during the five-week battle to recapture Fallujah from the Islamic State (IS) group, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Since the beginning of Iraq's war against IS in June 2014, when almost a third of the country's territory was seized after the dramatic collapse of the Iraqi army, officials have either refused to comment or downplayed the numbers of casualties among Iraqi security forces.

General Hadi Erzaje, deputy of the Fallujah military operations commander, previously told MEE: "We have casualties, but not that many. We are involved in fighting so we cannot reveal such information.”

But a senior security official speaking on condition of anonymity told MEE that at least 394 members of the security forces were killed and 3,308 wounded in the battle, which started on 23 May and ended earlier this month.

Medical and other military sources put the death toll even higher, telling MEE this week that more than 900 soldiers were killed in the battle.

These numbers do not include members of militias slain while fighting in Fallujah. Nor have Iraqi officials released figures for deaths of Fallujah residents. More than 80,000 residents are estimated to have been displaced during the fighting.

The same sources said that 35,000 Iraqi forces, backed by multi-sect paramilitary troops and the US-led international coalition against IS, killed thousands of militants during the offensive.

The recapture of the city represents a "devastating blow" to the organisation, analysts and military officers told MEE.

A US military official told the Military Times on Thursday that the true size of IS’s fighting force was in question after Fallujah.

For at least the second time in recent weeks, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday announced the liberation of Fallujah and raised the Iraqi flag on government buildings in the city center.

But until now, it has been unclear what the cost of the campaign has been for Iraqis.

'A nuclear bomb'

Most of the security forces who died in Fallujah were killed either by suicide car bombs or rocket attacks used by the militants on a wide scale towards the end of the battle to block the advancing forces, sources said.

The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Squad, an elite fighting unit, had the lowest number of deaths. The highest casualties, military sources said, were among federal police troops who fought without air cover in the northern region of Fallujah and also secured the city center.

"We are not army or counter-terrorism services, we are federal police… We do not have tanks or jets. We were fighting in our flesh," General Lieutenant Ra'ad Jawdat, the commander of Iraqi federal police, told MEE.

Jawdat said federal police operating in the city’s northern hub were attacked by 90 suicide car bombs.

"If we put them together, their impact would be equal to a nuclear bomb," he said.

Jawdat would not comment on how many police died in Fallujah.

Militant casualties

Fallujah - which is also called the City of Mosques after the hundreds of places of worship built in the era of Saddam Hussein, who encouraged Sunni Muslim merchants to build the religious establishments tax-free - had been the base of most of IS’s senior commanders in Iraq and Syria.

Some experts say its capture may mark the beginning of the end for IS in Iraq, although the group still controls the key northern city of Mosul.

"Fallujah was the brain of the insect,” Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi expert on armed Islamic groups and a governmental security adviser, told MEE.

Hashimi and most Iraqi officials that MEE spoke with say that Fallujah was the weak flank of Baghdad, Babel, Karbala, Najaf, Ssalahuddin and Anbar provinces and was used as a launching pad for most suicide attacks that targeted these provinces over the past decade.

Iraqi military sources told MEE that at least 2,500 IS fighters were killed in Fallujah and its suburbs. Another 2,186 were arrested by Iraqi forces trying to flee the city among displaced families.

"They [IS militants] left the city with the fleeing families. Some of them used fake IDs, others were disguised in women’s clothing," General Erzaje told MEE.

The number of arrested militants may increase because Iraqi security authorities are still screening the records of another 6,000 detainees held by local security authorities in temporary detention sites near Fallujah, Erzaje said.

The number of casualties on both sides is also expected to increase as current figures do not include those deemed missing or the bodies of soldiers and militants still in the city, the sources said.

Despite the losses, some analysts said the recapture of Fallujah should be seen as a triumph that has raised the morale of Iraqi forces.

"Fallujah was the dynamo of the organisation. Whoever won the battle in Fallujah, won the war," Hashimi said.

"Now, we can say Daesh [IS] lost the war. When it lost Fallujah, it lost the war in Iraq.”

Source: Middle East Eye.
Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-iraqi-troops-heavy-toll-fallujah-victory-revealed-324505210.

Aid group: 4,000 more flee IS-held city of Fallujah in Iraq

June 13, 2016

BAGHDAD (AP) — An aid group says 4,000 more people have fled the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah in Iraq after government forces retook a key road to the IS stronghold over the weekend. The Norwegian Refugee Council, which works with refugees and internally displaced Iraqis, said on Monday that this brings the total number of residents who have fled Fallujah since the Iraqi offensive to retake the city started in late May to 27,580.

Aid groups estimate that 50,000 civilians still remain trapped inside Fallujah, which has been under IS control for over two years — the last major city in western Iraq still held by the extremist group.

NRC says some refugees reported that IS militants are demanding payments of 150,000 Iraqi Dinars, around $130, per person to let them leave.

Iraqi forces secure southern edge of IS-held Fallujah

June 05, 2016

NAYMIYAH, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi forces secured the southern edge of the Islamic State group stronghold of Fallujah on Sunday, two weeks after the launch of an operation to recapture the city, the Iraqi special forces commander overseeing the operation said.

Iraqi special forces, also known as its counterterrorism forces, have secured the largely agricultural southern neighborhood of Naymiyah under cover of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, Lt. Gen. Abdel Wahab al-Saadi said. Special forces are now poised to enter the main city, al-Saadi said.

The Fallujah operation coincides with a twin offensive on IS-strongholds in neighboring Syria. Syrian Kurdish forces are advancing on Manbij, an IS-held city controlling the supply route between the Turkish border and the town of Raqqa, the militants' de facto capital. At the same time, Syrian government troops are advancing on Raqqa from the south.

The slow-moving Iraqi operation was announced in May. An array of troops including Iraqi military divisions, the federal police and the largely Shiite militia groups, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, had cleared IS from the majority of Fallujah's suburbs.

On Monday, Iraq's elite special forces began pushing into the city center, but they have faced stiff resistance as Fallujah has been under IS control for more than two years, and the militants have been able to erect complex defenses.

Tall dirt berms dot the dusty fields to the city's south. A single column of counterterrorism Humvees snaked up toward a row of low lying houses that mark the beginning of the main city. "VIBED! VIBED!" shouted an Iraqi air commander from a small mobile base on Fallujah's southern edge. Using an acronym for a car bomb, the Iraqi special forces officer called to Australian coalition forces over a hand-held radio. Moments later, a plume of white, then black smoke appeared on the horizon. Commanders at the scene said the explosion was created by a coalition rocket destroying the incoming car bomb.

Car bombs were once the most deadly form of IS counterattack for Iraq's special forces, who have taken the lead in a number of anti-IS operations, including in the cities of Tikrit and Ramadi. Al-Saadi, who also commanded the Tikrit operation, says coalition air power in Fallujah has prevented car bombs from inflicting casualties on his forces, but they have still succeeded in slowing progress.

"We are expecting many more," once inside the city's more urban neighborhoods, al-Saadi said. Fallujah is one of the last strongholds of IS in Iraq. While the militants once held nearly a third of the country's territory, their grip has slipped to less than half that, according to the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. IS still controls patches of territory in northern and western Iraq, as well as its second largest city, Mosul.

Baghdad shuts down social media

June 4, 2016

The government in Baghdad announced on Friday that it was shutting down social media from midnight until further notice, Masralarabia.com has reported.

“The leadership issued an order to shut down the social media platforms in all the areas across the capital,” a security source explained. No further details were provided.

The shutdown was put in place due to fears that demonstrations calling for reform might have been organized on Friday evening. The security services also closed six main streets leading to the Green Zone in the center of Baghdad, where large numbers of troops and police were deployed in the early morning.

At the time of writing, no news was available about whether or not the shutdown is still in place.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160604-baghdad-shuts-down-social-media/.

Syrians in Turkey could become citizens: Erdogan


KILIS, Turkey

Millions of Syrians living in Turkey will have a chance to become citizens of the country that gave them shelter, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday.

Speaking in the southern Turkish province of Kilis, which borders Syria and hosts more than 120,000 Syrians, Erdogan said that many of the Syrians now in Turkey want to become citizens of the Republic of Turkey.

"There are steps our Interior Ministry has taken on the issue,” he said.

"We will give the chance to [acquire] citizenship by helping out these brothers and sisters by monitoring through offices set up by the ministry," Erdogan said.

Around 2.7 million Syrians who have fled the civil war in their country are being sheltered at camps inside Turkey.

Referring to the Syrian crisis, which turned violent in 2011 when regime leader Bashar al-Assad cracked down on peaceful protesters, Erdogan said the Syrians had been prevented from governing themselves.

"The organization called Daesh is, in fact, a puppet put forward with this aim. The organization called the PYD, [and] the YGP are subcontractors which were empowered for the same purpose.”

Stating that just as Daesh does not represent Muslims, the PYD and YPG likewise do not represent Kurds, Erdogan said those groups "are tools used for dirty designs on the region by those who hold their leashes in their hands."

About Turkey's attitude toward Syrians, Erdogan said: "Even today we are defending the same principles that we defended six years ago. We are saying the same things."

Syria has remained locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures.

The conflict in Syria has now driven more than 4 million people – a sixth of the country’s population – to seek sanctuary in neighboring countries, making it the largest refugee crisis for a quarter of a century, according to the UN.

Source: Anadolu Agency.
Link: http://aa.com.tr/en/anadolu-post/syrians-in-turkey-could-become-citizens-erdogan-/601849.

Erdogan calls Assad a 'more advanced terrorist' than IS

July 02, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Saturday that Syrian President Bashar Assad was a "more advanced terrorist" than the Islamic State group, despite the deadly attack on Istanbul's Ataturk Airport that Turkish officials blame on IS.

Speaking in the town of Kilis near the border with Syria, Erdogan said the Syrian leader was responsible for the deaths of some 600,000 of his own citizens and was the root cause of the war in Syria. "He is a more advanced terrorist than a terrorist from the PYD or the YPG," Erdogan said. "He is a more advanced terrorist than Daesh." Erdogan was referring to Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara accuses of being a terror organization because of their affiliation with Turkey's Kurdish rebels, and to the IS group by its Arabic name.

Three militants armed with assault rifles and suicide bombs attacked one of the world's busiest airports on Tuesday night, killing at least 44 people. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Turkish officials say they believe it was the work of IS.

Turkish authorities have detained at least 24 people in raids in several Istanbul neighborhoods over possible connections to the attack. Seventeen other people were detained in the province of Gaziantep, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Erdogan paid an unannounced visit to the airport on Saturday, saying a prayer in front of a memorial set up for the victims, which features the pictures of airport employees killed in the rampage. He later flew to Kilis, where the number of Syrian refugees is higher than the local Turkish population. IS militants have also attacked the town with cross-border rocket fire, killing 21 people there since January.

Erdogan said countries he did not name were supporting the Syrian Kurdish militia and the IS in a bid to prevent democracy in Syria and for their "dirty calculations" in the region. He also announced that his government would allow Syrian refugees in Turkey to take on Turkish citizenship.

Turkey has been accused of long turning a blind eye to jihadi fighters who crossed into Syria from Turkish territory in the hope that they would hasten Assad's downfall. Turkey has also been accused of not doing enough to fight IS, despite allowing the U.S.-led coalition to use a key air base to conduct air strikes against jihadists.

Turkey denies the accusations but such statements from Erdogan help reinforce beliefs that fighting IS is not a priority for Ankara despite the extremist groups' attacks on Turkish territory. Earlier, the Istanbul governor's office said 52 people were still in the hospital — 20 of them in intensive care — four days after the devastating airport attack. It said 184 airport victims had been discharged from hospitals so far, including 13 people released Saturday.

Prosecutors have established the identity of two of the three airport attackers — giving their names as Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov — and were trying to identify the third, Anadolu said. Other media reports have given different versions of Osmanov's name.

Investigators' attentions have reportedly focused on whether a Chechen extremist known to be a top lieutenant in the Islamic State group masterminded the attack. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told CNN that Akhmed Chatayev directed the attack. The CIA and White House declined to comment on McCaul's assertion and officials said the investigation into the airport bombings is still ongoing. McCaul could not be reached for further comment.

Turkish officials also were not able to confirm Chatayev's possible role in the deadly attack. The Sabah newspaper, which is close to the Turkish government, said police had launched a manhunt for him.

The Islamic State group, which has used the porous border with Turkey to establish itself in neighboring Syria and Iraq, has repeatedly threatened Turkey. In turn, Turkey has blamed IS for several major bombings in the past year in Ankara and Istanbul.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

A run for the exit: UK Independence Party chief Farage quits

July 04, 2016

LONDON (AP) — The head of the U.K. Independence Party, Nigel Farage, resigned Monday as party leader, the latest British political chief to tumble amid the political turmoil following the country's vote to leave the European Union.

Farage's departure makes him the third major political figure to announce plans to step aside rather than take ownership of the tumultuous times ahead as Britain navigates its departure following the June 23 referendum. An odd power vacuum has replaced the boisterous predictability of British politics.

"During the referendum campaign, I said I want my country back. What I'm saying today is I want my life back, and it begins right now," Farage told reporters. Farage joins Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he will step aside to allow a successor to deal with the negotiation process to extricate Britain from the EU's single market of some 500 million. The favorite to replace him, prominent "leave" campaigner Boris Johnson, declined to stand for the Conservative leadership. The opposition Labour Party is having its own troubles, with leader Jeremy Corbyn clinging to office despite having lost a confidence vote by his party's lawmakers.

Farage was instrumental in the campaign to have Britain leave the EU, championing the issue of immigration. A much-criticized campaign poster featuring thousands of migrants massed at the border alongside the words "Breaking Point," typified fears that fueled some Brits' decision to vote for a British exit, or Brexit.

"The victory for the 'leave' side in the referendum means that my political ambition has been achieved," Farage said. "I came into this struggle from business because I wanted us to be a self-governing nation, not to become a career politician."

Farage said he would retain his seat in the European Parliament to see out the negotiations for Britain's exit from the EU. He defended his taunting of other lawmakers in the chamber last week, arguing he wanted Britain's voice to be heard.

Meanwhile, other politicians rushed to try to seize the moment and win a chance at power. British Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom launched her bid to lead the Conservative Party, pitching herself as a passionately pro-"leave" candidate who can both unite a divided Britain and strike a good deal with the European Union.

Leadsom is one of the least-known among the five candidates to replace Cameron, but gained attention as one of the strongest voices for a vote to leave the EU. She's targeting her pitch at Conservatives who think the next prime minister must be someone from the winning side of the referendum.

The Conservative front-runner, Home Secretary Theresa May, was on the losing "remain" side. Leadsom, who went into politics after a career in financial services, says she would keep the negotiations on an exit deal with the 27 other EU countries as short as possible, because "neither we nor our European friends need prolonged uncertainty."

And, unlike May, she says EU citizens living in Britain would be guaranteed the right to stay. She says "we must give them certainty. There is no way they will be bargaining chips in our negotiations."

Earlier, Britain's Treasury chief announced plans to cut U.K. corporation tax to less than 15 percent to encourage companies to invest and ease business concerns about the country's vote to leave the EU.

Treasury chief George Osborne says the cut is meant to underscore that Britain is "still open for business," despite the referendum result. A cut of about 5 percentage points brings Britain in line with Ireland's 12.5 percent rate.

Osborne told the Financial Times it was time to "make the most of the hand we've been dealt." He is urging the Bank of England to use its powers to avoid "a contraction of credit in the economy." Some businesses based in London are considering leaving for other cities like Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris to benefit from the large EU common market.

Amid the uncertainty, a prominent law firm says it may go to court to force a vote in Parliament on the referendum. The law firm Mishcon de Reya , acting on behalf of a group of anonymous clients, argues that the referendum was not legally binding and that it is up to Parliament to have their say before the next prime minister invokes Article 50, triggering the start of negotiations for a U.K. departure from EU.

Cameron has insisted that it will be up to the next prime minister to enact Article 50.

Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless contributed to this story.

Police battle rioters in Zimbabwe's capital

July 04, 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Police in Zimbabwe's capital on Monday fired tear gas, water cannons and warning shots during riots by minibus drivers and others protesting alleged police harassment. The violence, in which 30 people were arrested, came amid a surge in protests in recent weeks because of increasing economic hardship and alleged mismanagement by the government of President Robert Mugabe.

An Associated Press journalist saw protesters severely beat two police officers with sticks, then take their uniforms and helmets and wear them. The protesters blocked roads leading into the center of Harare, forcing many people to walk up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) to get to work. Rioters threw stones at police and vehicles, and some children on their way to school were caught up in the chaos.

Outnumbered police later sought to negotiate with the crowds after failing to disperse thousands of protesters, who were concentrated in Harare's eastern suburbs. Many rioters were young men who can't find regular employment and make a living off drivers by charging a small fee to load passengers into minibuses.

Some police were seen firing live ammunition into the air to ward off the crowds. They also brought in police dogs. The drivers' grievances stem from anger over numerous roadblocks that police sometimes set up in city streets, which drivers allege are to demand bribes. Police said they had reduced the number of roadblocks after complaints from parliamentarians, tourism operators and others.

Thirty people were arrested for inciting the protests, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said. "We have information and intelligence on the identities of some criminal elements who are behind the social unrest," Charamba said at a news conference.

Such acts of defiance and clashes with the police are rare in Zimbabwe, although the government deployed the army against 1998 riots over soaring food prices. Mugabe, 92, has ruled the southern African country since independence from white minority rule in 1980, scoffing at frequent allegations of human rights violations.

Frustrations over rapidly deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe, compounded by dissatisfaction over alleged government corruption and incompetence, have resulted in near-daily protests in recent weeks. On Friday, protesters burned a warehouse at Beitbridge, a busy border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa, over a Zimbabwean decision to ban a wide range of imports.

Seventeen people appeared in court on Sunday over the Beitbridge protests and were charged with public violence. Separately, state hospital doctors and other government workers said they will strike over the government's failure to pay their June salaries on time.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has been pleading with Western countries to unlock financing for Zimbabwe in the form of loans that were halted close to two decades ago. The financing dried up due to failure to repay debts as well as international sanctions imposed because of concerns over democratic rights.

Some recent political protests have been notable for their brazenness. Police said they are looking for Lumumba William Matumanje, a former ruling party activist who used an obscenity to denigrate Mugabe while launching his own political party last week. People have often been sent to jail for such conduct in Zimbabwe.

Last month, video footage showed an anti-government protester shouting in the lobby of an upscale hotel in Harare and haranguing police until they move in and drag him away. The video shows a protest by activists angry at Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko's alleged 18-month stay in a $400-a-night hotel suite in the capital, Harare.

Activist Sten Zvorwadza was charged with threats to commit malicious damage to property and was freed on $200 bail. The majority of Zimbabwe's citizens survive on just a dollar a day, the official statistics agency says.

Israel's Netanyahu in Uganda to start 4-nation Africa tour

July 04, 2016

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country's raid on Uganda's Entebbe airport 40 years ago, in which his brother was killed, "changed the course" of his life. Speaking shortly after his arrival in Uganda, Netanyahu praised Israel's commando raid on the airport which freed Israeli hostages from a hijacked plane. "International terrorism suffered a stinging defeat," from the mission in July 1976.

The Entebbe rescue is a seminal event in Israeli history and is widely seen as one of the country's greatest military successes. It also was a monumental event for Netanyahu, as the death of his brother, Yonatan, pushed him into the public eye and on a track that would take him to the country's highest office.

An Israeli band played somber tunes at the airport on the shore of Lake Victoria to mark the anniversary of the Israeli rescue mission, during which three hostages were killed. A relative of one of the Israeli hostages lit a memorial flame as Netanyahu and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni stood in silence.

Netanyahu traveled to Uganda with soldiers and pilots who were members of the rescue team. "This is a deeply moving day for me," he said. "Forty years ago they landed in the dead of night in a country led by a brutal dictator who gave refuge to terrorists. Today we landed in broad daylight in a friendly country led by a president who fights terrorists."

Netanyahu's visit to Uganda starts his four-nation tour of Africa. "After many decades, I can say unequivocally Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel," he said. "All of our peoples will benefit greatly from our growing partnership."

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said his government opposes the "indiscriminate use of violence" as well as bigotry. He said Uganda's government supports a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

"The two of you belong to that area," Museveni said, urging both sides to live "side by side in two states ... in peace and with recognized borders." The one-day visit to Uganda is the start of Netanyahu's tour of Africa during which he will also visit Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Later on Monday Netanyahu will attend a summit of regional leaders focusing on security. In exchange for its expertise in security and other fields, Israel wants African states to side with it at the U.N., where the General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as a nonmember observer state in 2012. Israel also has a shared interest with the four African countries of confronting Islamic extremists.

Uganda's Entebbe Airport is where Netanyahu's brother, Yonatan, was struck by a bullet as he led Israeli commandos in a daring rescue mission to rescue hijacked Israeli passengers. Israel's success in the raid humiliated then-Ugandan President Idi Amin.

Four decades later, Uganda has good relations with Israel, which is courting allies to counter Palestine's rising influence at the United Nations. While in Uganda Netanyahu will also attend a security-themed summit of regional leaders, including those from Kenya and Tanzania, said Don Wanyama, a spokesman for Uganda's president.

Although the rescue mission breached Uganda's territorial integrity, Amin, who had taken power by force and ruled as a dictator, had become an increasingly isolated figure and would soon be forced out of power with the help of Tanzanian forces. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni himself led one of several exile groups that waged a guerrilla war against Amin.

A lingering loathing of Amin, who was accused of many human rights atrocities and who died in Saudi Arabia in 2003, is one reason why many Ugandans today do not see the success of the Israeli raid — in which many Ugandan soldiers were killed and military equipment destroyed — as a disaster for Uganda. Yonatan Netanyahu was shot dead as he helped the Israeli hostages who had been held inside the airport terminal back onto the plane. His death made Yonatan an Israeli hero, and thrust Netanyahu toward public life.

Still, some Ugandans say Netanyahu's historic visit should be a moment to mourn the Ugandan victims of the operation. Moses Ali, Uganda's deputy prime minister who served as a government minister under Amin, told Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper that the rescue mission should not be celebrated by Ugandans.

"If you are siding with Israelis, then you can celebrate because it was their victory," he said. "If you are not, then you should be mourning our dead ones." Netanyahu will also be visiting Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia this week.

Israel wants African states to side with it at the U.N., where the General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as a nonmember observer state in 2012. The Palestinians have used their upgraded status to launch a diplomatic offensive against Israel and its occupation of lands where the Palestinians hope to establish a future state.

"Israel has been on a mission to repair its image globally and more specifically within the U.N. where the Africa group has for decades now supported the Palestinian cause, and vote in general toward that end," said Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst who runs a think tank called Fana Kwawote.

As a key U.S. ally on regional security, especially in violence-prone Somalia, Uganda is an attractive ally for Israel as well, according to Izama. "Washington views the Museveni administration as a regional hegemon, a key to the security of the wider region. Uganda's involvement in counter-terrorism in Somalia ... and its significant expenditure on security goods, including arms and technology, are another reason" for Netanyahu's visit, he said.

Netanyahu's African trip has generated some controversy at home, due to the large size of his delegation, as well as the personal nature of the visit. In an editorial published Monday, the Haaretz daily praised Netanyahu for strengthening Israel's ties with Africa, but suggested that he was largely driven by his own emotional involvement. "Despite the expected success of the diplomatic and economic contacts, it's hard to shake off the impression that the entire trip would not be taking place were it not for Netanyahu's desire to take advantage of his official position in order to conduct a ceremony in the old Entebbe airport," it wrote.

AP writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Juno probe succeeds in mission to orbit Jupiter: NASA

By Kerry Sheridan
Miami (AFP)
July 5, 2016

NASA celebrated a key triumph on Tuesday as its $1.1 billion Juno spacecraft successfully slipped into orbit around Jupiter on a mission to probe the origin of the solar system.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California erupted in cheers as the solar observatory successfully entered its aimed-for orbit around the biggest planet in our cosmic neighborhood at 11:53 pm (0353 GMT Tuesday).

"We are in it," hollered Scott Bolton, NASA's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

"You are the best team ever," he told his colleagues at mission control. "You just did the hardest thing NASA has ever done."

Juno launched five years ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida and has traveled 1.7 billion miles (2.7 billion kilometers) since then.

The spacecraft was traveling at a speed of more than 130,000 miles per hour (209,200 kilometers per hour) when it fired its engines to slow down enough to be captured into Jupiter's orbit.

This "burn," or orbit insertion, began at 11:18 pm (0318 GMT) on July 4, the US national independence day holiday.

"We see the expected sharp shift upward in the Doppler residuals indicating that the engine has started," said an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as applause filled the mission control room.

A tone from the spacecraft indicating the maneuver's success came right on time, 35 minutes later.

How Jupiter formed

Scientists hope to find out more about how much water Jupiter holds and the makeup of its core in order to figure out how the planet -- and others in the neighborhood, including Earth -- formed billions of years ago.

The solar system's most massive planet is fifth from the sun.

With an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, it is known for its Great Red Spot, a storm bigger than Earth that has been raging for hundreds of years.

The first mission designed to see beneath Jupiter's clouds, Juno is named after the Roman goddess who was the wife of Jupiter, the god of the sky in ancient mythology.

The NASA mission aims to orbit Jupiter from pole to pole, sampling its charged particles and magnetic fields for the first time and revealing more about the auroras in ultraviolet light that can be seen around the planet's polar regions.

Juno should circle the planet 37 times before finally making a death plunge in 2018, to prevent the spacecraft from causing damage to any of Jupiter's icy moons, which NASA hopes to explore one day for signs of life.

Although Juno will not be the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, NASA says its path will bring it closer than its predecessor, Galileo, which launched in 1989.

That spacecraft found evidence of subsurface saltwater on Jupiter's moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto before making a final plunge into Jupiter in 2003.

NASA says Juno should be able to get closer than Galileo -- this time within 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops.

Dodge radiation

Earlier Monday, Heidi Becker, senior engineer on radiation effects at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, described the close approach as going "into the scariest part of the scariest place... part of Jupiter's radiation environment where nobody has ever been."

A key concern has been radiation levels -- as high as 100 million X-rays in the course of a year, she explained.

Those high-energy electrons, moving at the speed of light, "will go right through a spacecraft and strip the atoms apart inside your electronics and fry your brain if you don't do anything about it," she said.

"So we did a lot about it," she added, describing the half-inch-thick layer of titanium that protects the electronics in a vault to bring the radiation dose down.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NASAs_Juno_spacecraft_begins_bid_to_orbit_Jupiter_999.html.

Hubble Reveals Stellar Fireworks in 'Skyrocket Galaxy'

Baltimore MD (SPX)
Jul 03, 2016

Fireworks shows are not just confined to Earth's skies. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a spectacular fireworks display in a small, nearby galaxy, which resembles a July 4th skyrocket.

A firestorm of star birth is lighting up one end of the diminutive galaxy Kiso 5639. The dwarf galaxy is shaped like a flattened pancake, but because it is tilted edge-on, it resembles a skyrocket, with a brilliant blazing head and a long, star-studded tail.

Kiso 5639 is a rare, nearby example of elongated galaxies that occur in abundance at larger distances, where we observe the universe during earlier epochs. Astronomers suggest that the frenzied star birth is sparked by intergalactic gas raining on one end of the galaxy as it drifts through space.

"I think Kiso 5639 is a beautiful, up-close example of what must have been common long ago," said lead researcher Debra Elmegreen of Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York. "The current thinking is that galaxies in the early universe grow from accreting gas from the surrounding neighborhood. It's a stage that galaxies, including our Milky Way, must go through as they are growing up."

Observations of the early universe, such as Hubble's Ultra Deep Field, reveal that about 10 percent of all galaxies have these elongated shapes, and are collectively called "tadpoles." But studies of the nearby universe have turned up only a few of these unusual galaxies, including Kiso 5639. The development of the nearby star-making tadpole galaxies, however, has lagged behind that of their peers, which have spent billions of years building themselves up into many of the spiral galaxies seen today.

Elmegreen used Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 3 to conduct a detailed imaging study of Kiso 5639. The images in different filters reveal information about an object by dissecting its light into its component colors. Hubble's crisp resolution helped Elmegreen and her team analyze the giant star-forming clumps in Kiso 5639 and determine the masses and ages of the star clusters.

The international team of researchers selected Kiso 5639 from a spectroscopic survey of 10 nearby tadpole galaxies, observed with the Grand Canary Telescope in La Palma, Spain, by Jorge Sanchez Almeida and collaborators at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias. The observations revealed that in most of those galaxies, including Kiso 5639, the gas composition is not uniform.

The bright gas in the galaxy's head contains fewer heavier elements (collectively called "metals"), such as carbon and oxygen, than the rest of the galaxy. Stars consist mainly of hydrogen and helium, but cook up other "heavier" elements. When the stars die, they release their heavy elements and enrich the surrounding gas.

"The metallicity suggests that there has to be rather pure gas, composed mostly of hydrogen, coming into the star-forming part of the galaxy, because intergalactic space contains more pristine hydrogen-rich gas," Elmegreen explained. "Otherwise, the starburst region should be as rich in heavy elements as the rest of the galaxy."

Hubble offers a detailed view of the galaxy's star-making frenzy. The telescope uncovered several dozen clusters of stars in the galaxy's star-forming head, which spans 2,700 light-years across. These clusters have an average age of less than 1 million years and masses that are three to six times larger than those in the rest of the galaxy. Other star formation is taking place throughout the galaxy but on a much smaller scale. Star clusters in the rest of the galaxy are between several million to a few billion years old.

"There is much more star formation going on in the head than what you would expect in such a tiny galaxy," said team member Bruce Elmegreen of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights, New York. "And we think the star formation is triggered by the ongoing accretion of metal-poor gas onto a part of an otherwise quiescent dwarf galaxy."

Hubble also revealed giant holes peppered throughout the galaxy's starburst head. These cavities give the galaxy's head a Swiss-cheese appearance because numerous supernova detonations - like firework aerial bursts - have carved out holes of rarified superheated gas.

The galaxy, located 82 million light-years away, has taken billions of years to develop because it has been drifting through an isolated "desert" in the universe, devoid of much gas.

What triggered the starburst in such a backwater galaxy? Based on simulations by Daniel Ceverino of the Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University in Germany, and other team members, the observations suggest that less than 1 million years ago, Kiso 5639's leading edge encountered a filament of gas. The filament dropped a large clump of matter onto the galaxy, stoking the vigorous star birth.

Debra Elmegreen expects that in the future other parts of the galaxy will join in the star-making fireworks show. "Galaxies rotate, and as Kiso 5639 continues to spin, another part of the galaxy may receive an infusion of new gas from this filament, instigating another round of star birth," she said.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Hubble_Reveals_Stellar_Fireworks_in_Skyrocket_Galaxy_999.html.

China finishes world's largest radio telescope to search for alien life

Guiyang, China (UPI)
by Allen Cone
Jul 3, 2016

China finished constructing the world's largest radio telescope to hunt for signs of alien life in deep space.

The Five-hundred-meter Single-Aperture Radio Telescope, or FAST, contains 4,450 reflector panels with a diameter of 500 yards and is 30 football fields, according to the Xinhua news agency.

About 300 people witnessed the installation Saturday of the last triangular-shaped panel to the reflector in Pingtang County of the southwestern province of Guizhou.

The project was first conceived in 1994 and installation began in March 2011 with a cost of $105 million. It finished two months ahead of schedule.

A total of 9,110 residents were relocated in 2009 to four settlements at the government's expense "to create a sound electromagnetic wave environment," Xinhua reported citing provincial officials. They were also were given $1,800 in compensation. Ethnic minority households facing housing difficulties were given another $1,500.

No residents will live within 3 miles of the telescope. Three hills around the depression formed an equilateral triangle.

The previous largest single aperture telescope in the world was at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory with a diameter of 328 yards.

"As the world's largest single aperture telescope located at an extremely radio-quiet site, its scientific impact on astronomy will be extraordinary, and it will certainly revolutionize other areas of the natural sciences," said Nan Rendong, chief scientist with the FAST Project, told China.org

FAST will enable astronomers survey neutral hydrogen in distant galaxies and detect faint pulsars, which are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation, researchers said.

The project potentially can search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life, said Zheng Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Li Di, an NAO researcher, said in two or three years scientists may find amino acids, the foundation block of life.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/China_finishes_worlds_largest_radio_telescope_to_search_for_alien_life_999.html.

Mercury's Surface Arose from Deep Inside the Planet

Yokohama, Japan (SPX)
Jul 03, 2016

NASA researchers have found that several volcanic deposits on Mercury's surface require mantle melting to have started close to the planet's core-mantle boundary, which lies only 400 km below the planet's surface, making it unique in the solar system. This is reported at the Goldschmidt conference in Yokohama, Japan.

The recent MESSENGER mission to Mercury has shown that the surface of the planet is very heterogeneous, but it can be classified into two main types of regions. One is an area of relatively young northern volcanic plains (NVP) - these are between 3.7 and 3.8 billion years old. The other area consists of intercrater plains and heavily-cratered terrains (IcP-HCT), which are older, between 4 and 4.2 billion years old.

The older regions contain several previously unexplained features, including a large magnesium-rich spot, which is around 10,000,000 km square - around the size of Canada although because Mercury is much smaller than the Earth this spot takes up around 15% of the planet's surface.

Until now, there has been no satisfactory explanation of how the formation and history of the planet would have allowed these heterogeneous areas to develop without invoking melting of a heterogeneous mantle. But now a group of NASA scientists from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, have performed a series of experiments which explain most of the chemical compositions of Mercury's surface.

The researchers looked for the answers by simulating early conditions on Mercury. Mercury is believed to have formed under highly reduced conditions. Enstatite chondrites are similarly reduced and may be a good proxy to the chemical building blocks. So the researchers took the same chemistry as found in enstatite chondrites, and began to subject them to the sort of pressures and temperatures found in the deep mantle of Mercury.

The first author of the study, Dr. Asmaa Boujibar said: "We took a powdered chemical mix similar in composition to enstatite chondrites, which is thought to represent Mercury's building blocks, and subjected it to high pressures and temperatures. The pressures were high, up to 5 gigapascals (50,000 times the Earth's atmospheric pressure), which is the sort of pressure where you can form diamonds. This is the pressure of Mercury's core-mantle boundary."

She continued: "Mercury is a unique terrestrial planet. Unlike the Earth, it has a large core and a comparatively shallow mantle, meaning that the mantle-core boundary is only around 400 km below the planet's crust.

"The key finding is that by varying pressure and temperature on only one type of composition, we could produce the variety of material found on the planet's surface. These findings indicate that the older terrains are formed by material melting at high pressures up to the core-mantle boundary, while the younger terrains are formed closer to the surface.

"These results show also that Mercury likely formed with enstatite chondrites. The particularity of Mercury and these types of meteorites is their high sulfur content. The role of sulfur on magma composition was difficult to predict as Mercury is the only terrestrial planet with such high sulfur concentrations (1 to 4 weight %). For comparison, the mantles of Earth, Mars and the Moon have <0.1 weight % sulfur. Both effects of pressure and sulfur explain the overall heterogeneous surface composition of Mercury.

"A few regions of Mercury's surface remain difficult to explain, but it does go a long way to helping us understand why we find such a variety of features."

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Mercurys_Surface_Arose_from_Deep_Inside_the_Planet_999.html.