What 'Narcos' and 'Sicario' get right (and wrong) about drug cartels - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella, author of “Rip Crew,” lays out what popular TV shows and movies like “Narcos” and “Sicario” get right and wrong about Mexican drug cartels. Following is a transcript of the video.

Sebastian Rotella: I’m Sebastian Rotella. I’m the author of the novel Rip Crew and I’m a senior reporter at Propublica.


“Sicario” was a, was a good movie, and some of the things it portrayed were very accurate, for example that shootout at the border, if you remember in “Sicario” when they’re at the border crossing, stuck in traffic, that has happened, and something that I was very worried about when I was covering the border, because you know that is a sort of a prime vulnerability moment when you’re stuck in that traffic at the border.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

There were other things in, for example, in “Sicario” that I thought pushed the envelope, the sort of gratuitous and casual torture taking place on US territory, that in my experience, you know, it happens very rarely, I’m really not aware of it. And that isn’t because there aren’t particularly Latin American law enforcement and intelligence and military units that work with the US that engage in that kind of activity, but it tends to happen precisely in those countries. You know, the idea that you would bring someone into the US to do that and expose yourself to all kinds of potential prosecution and scandal, that did not ring true, for example. So it really depends.

I think “Narcos” is quite well-researched. What happens is, and I’ve done this having written fiction, and having been involved in projects where you move this stuff to the big screen, things have to be simplified, they have to be made dramatic, they have, you lose nuance, and oftentimes, they’ll be things that happen in real life that I think would make for good, it would be good on, on a TV show or a movie, but they’re harder to portray because oftentimes they happen out of ineptitude.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

Right, I mean the scary thing sometimes about this world is the combination of that, how lethal, but sometimes how inept or how unsophisticated some of these actors are, that factor that is hard to portray in the best series this question of ineptitude of the mix of sophistication and coincidence and sort of human flaws, I think when that is draw out in series, that is when they’re at their best, because I think that is very human and that is very real. There is still a sense of the drug lords in Mexico. You know people talk a lot about Chapo Guzman, who was just captured.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels
Chapo Guzman

The thing about Chapo Guzman is he was kind of the last of the drug lords of his style, and one of the reasons that Mexico was so violent, and the drug violence and drug corruption has gotten so bad is precisely because the generation of drug lords like Chapo Guzman has kind of died out, and the people who run most of the cartels now, the cartels are adamized and fragmented for one thing. And the other thing is what you have is a phenomenon, is as the drug lords like Chapo Guzman have faded out, the trigger men, the gun men, who pretty much resolve everything through violence have risen.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

So it’s not to say that Chapo Guzman and the Arellano-Felix brothers whom I covered in Tijuana years ago and others, weren’t violent. They were bloodthirsty and sadistic, but they also had a sense of when to corrupt, rather than kill, when to do packs, when to, how to, how to, how to approach this as a, as a business, as a violent business, but a business, none the less. Whereas the drug cartels like the Zetas, and some of the remnants of other cartels that have risen, the Zetas were former commandos in Mexico actually military men who took over and created their own cartel. Pretty much they resolve everything through violence, so people think about a drug lord sort of sitting on a throne somewhere and running this vast empire and it’s much more a series of smaller, very anarchic, dangerous, chaotic empires, that are, you know, that have been splintered and fractured and that unfortunately has created more violence and not less.


This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kremlin denies arrested Marine vet being used as ‘Pawn’

Russia has rejected a British suggestion that it might use a former U.S. Marine detained in December 2018 in Russia on espionage charges as a pawn in a diplomatic game, saying that Moscow reserves the right to conduct counterintelligence activities.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship. was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on Dec. 28, 2018.


His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, in remarks about the case, that individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage.

Asked about Hunt’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games. In Russia we conduct counterintelligence activity against those suspected of espionage. That is done regularly.”

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov also said that he was not aware of statements on a possible swap of Whelan in exchange for Russian citizen Maria Butina, held in the United States.

Butina has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, leading to speculation of a possible swap.

On Jan. 5, 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a swap involving Whelan would be premature because Whelan hasn’t been formally charged.

“As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort or another, it’s impossible and incorrect to consider the question now when an official charge hasn’t even been presented,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency.

The Russian outlet earlier reported that Whelan had been indicted on spying charges that carry a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Team gets kicked out of Military World Games for ‘extensive cheating’

A Chinese team got kicked out of the Military World Games in China after accusations of “extensive cheating” from six European nations.

On Oct. 21, 2019, China took gold, silver, and fourth place in the women’s Middle Distance orienteering challenge in Wuhan, as well as silver in the men’s event.

But their celebrations were short-lived.

“The Middle Distance competition was unfortunately overshadowed by extensive cheating by the Chinese team,” the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) said in a press release.


The IOF said it was “discovered and proven” that Chinese runners “received illegal assistance both by spectators in the terrain, markings, and small paths prepared for them and which only they were aware of.”

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

The U.S. Armed Forces Sports team marches during opening ceremonies for the 2019 CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China Oct. 18, 2019.

(DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

The national teams of Russia, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Poland, and Austria submitted a formal complaint, and the jury disqualified everyone in the home orienteering team.

Business Insider contacted The People’s Liberation Army and China’s Ministry of Defense for comment, but is yet to receive a response.

The IOF said it rejected an appeal from China.

Athletes from Russia’s military were then awarded gold in both the men’s and women’s event.

Orienteering is a foot race involving small teams, who use a compass and map to navigate a path through complex terrain to a finish line.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

The logo and mascot for the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China.

(YouTube/CISM)

The Military World Games are an annual event which see several armed forces compete in a variety of summer and winter sports.

This year’s event ran from Oct. 18 to Oct. 27, 2019, and was opened with a ceremony attended by Chinese president Xi Jinping.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This monster aircraft was the helicopter version of the AC-130 gunship

With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.


Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during the Vietnam war to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops.

Related video:

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Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.

The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966, where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian task force.

Read more about these monster gunships here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 absurd military habits that stay with you forever

The thing about your regular habits in the military is that they are sometimes literally drilled into you. Chances are good you still have the urgent desire to remove your hat when you walk into a building. You probably fall into lock-step when anyone starts walking next to you and feel incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of putting your hands in your pockets. These are just the little things you’ve done for years, things you may not even notice.

There are many, many other things you probably do notice that you probably wish you could break – because you look ridiculous.


What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

“I don’t know what you have planned for the weekend, Wayne, but I’m out.”

The bug-out bag in your trunk.

This one isn’t that big a deal. You’re basically ready to deploy to somewhere at a moment’s notice, even though you don’t need to be. Luckily, only the people who see inside your trunk (and probably also in your closet) will know about this one. But lo and behold, you are prepared for almost any eventuality, no matter when it happens. House fire? All set. Earthquake? Ready to go. Zombie apocalypse? Absolutely. Your go-bag contains food (probably an MRE), important papers, a water filter, and anything else you’ll need to survive or walk away with in case stuff hits the fan. Even if you don’t have this, you think you need to get one.

To the rest of the world, you might look like a crazy survivalist, but they’ll be dead, and you’ll be alive so who cares?

Now: 12 important things that need to be in your bug-out bag

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

I would rather ride in silence.

Shouting in the passenger seat.

Does the driver of the vehicle you’re riding shotgun in need to know if he or she is clear on the right or left? That doesn’t matter because you’re going to tell them, and probably do it a little louder than your indoor voice. If, for some reason, there is some kind of vehicle or other object on the way, you’ll be sure to let them know exactly what it is and how far away it is from the vehicle. If not you’re letting them know: CLEAR RIGHT.

Extra points if you feel the need to fill up at half a tank and/or check the pressure of every tire, including the spare.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

How to gain credibility in one easy photo.

Staring at everyone’s shoes.

Sure, that guy who interviewed you was the senior reporter for the local news channel, but it looks like he polished his shoes with a Hershey bar and was thus slightly less deserving of your respect. He probably also has terrible attention to detail as all people with rough-looking shoes must have, right? You know who those people are because you’re staring at shoes for a few seconds upon meeting literally anyone and everyone.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

Eating too fast.

How does it taste? We may never know. Veterans could eat an entire Thanksgiving dinner during a Lions-Packers commercial break.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

Carrying everything in your left hand.

When you’re in the military, this is not only a regulation, it just makes sense. How are you supposed to salute when your right hand is full? The answer is that your right hand should always be empty. When you’re out of the military, this is so ingrained in your muscle memory that you’ll carry a whole week’s groceries in one hand while your right is completely free.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

When you find out White Castle has a free meal for veterans.

Moving with a sense of purpose for things that don’t warrant it. 

There’s no reason to make a beeline for the prime rib at Golden Corral, but the actions of hundreds of veterans on Veterans Day would make one think otherwise. There’s a high probability veterans get annoyed at civilians who don’t move through the taco bar fast enough.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Meet the MiG America fought over Vietnam

It was called the “Blue Bandit” by the American pilots who faced it in combat. It ranks as one of the most widely produced and exported fighters in history. It was the victim of one of the best ruses in military warfare, and it’s flown for almost 60 years. Even though it was designed in the ’50s, it remained in production until 1985 alongside more advanced jets.

This is, of course, the MiG-21 “Fishbed.”


This jet was produced by both the Soviet Union and Communist China. It saw action in Vietnam, the Middle East, and even over Yugoslavia. Even now, with upgrades that allow it to carry the latest in air-to-air missiles, it serves on the front for India. Over its long history, this plane has evolved from a pure interceptor to a multirole fighter.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

The wide exportation of the MiG-21 meant that a few examples, like the one on the right, ended up in American hands.

(USAF)

The MiG-21 is best known for its use by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. It was fast — it could reach a top speed of 1,386 miles per hour — but had a short range of just 721 miles.

Most famously, the MiG-21 was the primary victim of Operation Bolo, a plan cooked up by U.S. Air Force legend Robin Olds. The North Vietnamese sent their MiG-21s to attack what looked like a large, unescorted strike. They found out the hard way that what looked like F-105 Thunderchiefs (ground-attack planes) were actually F-4 Phantoms. Seven Fishbeds were shot down in that dogfight.

While North Vietnamese Fishbeds did shoot down 56 American planes using the AA-2 Atoll anti-air missile, 90 were downed in air-to-air combat, including two by B-52 tail gunners.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

A Bulgarian MiG-21 taxis for takeoff during a 2006 exercise with the United States Air Force.

(US Army photo by Maj. Dana Hampton)

The Fishbed also saw action in the Middle East, mostly going up against Israeli Defense Forces. Here, its record wasn’t as good — and it gained notoriety for being the first to fall prey to the F-15 Eagle.

Learn more about this veteran fighter in the video blow!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qxqEKhGTgU

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Zombie cicadas in the US lure victims with promises of sex before passing on a deadly, mind-controlling parasite

A parasitic fungus can control the minds of cicadas, leading them to act like the undead.

Researchers at West Virginia University first discovered these “zombie cicadas” last summer. They found that the bugs douse other cicadas with spores that cause the same infection, so the scientists nicknamed the cicadas “flying salt shakers of death.” But they didn’t fully understand how the psychedelic fungus — named massospora — tricks cicadas into spreading the disease to so many healthy counterparts.

The possessed cicadas reemerged in West Virginia in June, giving the researchers a chance to answer that question.

In a recent study, scientists describe how massospora manipulates male cicadas into flicking their wings in a pattern that imitates females’ mating invitations. That sham siren call then lures in unsuspecting healthy males.

When the healthy males wander over and try to mate to with their infected brethren, the parasite gains a new victim.

The fungus tweaks cicadas’ behavior against its best interest

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartelsA swarm of cicadas take over a bush near Trenton, Ohio. Pat Auckerman/The Journal/AP

The most sinister aspect of massospora is that the fungus eats away at infected cicadas genitals, butts, and abdomens, replacing them with fungal spores.

The insects’ bodies “wear away like an eraser on a pencil,” Brian Lovett, a coauthor of the new study, said in a press release.

Lovett and his team found that even though infected cicadas can lose up to one-third of their bodies to the fungus, they continue to roam, fly, and fornicate as if nothing’s wrong. That maximizes the parasite’s spread.

To make matters worse, the infection causes cicadas’ libido to skyrocket — they “try to mate with everything they encounter,” the researchers said.

“It’s very clear that the pathogen is pulling the behavioral levers of the cicada to cause it to do things which are not in the interest of the cicada, but is very much in the interest of the pathogen,” Lovett said.

He added that this type of behavioral tweak is similar to how the rabies virus modifies its hosts’ behavior.

“When you’re infected with rabies, you become aggressive, you become afraid of water and you don’t swallow,” Lovett said. “The virus is passed through saliva and all of those symptoms essentially turn you into a rabies-spreading machine where you’re more likely to bite people.”

Zombie cicadas aren’t dangerous to people 

The study also pinpointed when during their life cycle the cicadas may get infected.

Baby cicadas — called nymphs — spend the first 17 years of their lives underground, feeding on plant roots. According to Matt Kasson, another study author, some nymphs could encounter the fungus as they dig their burrows.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartelsBrian Lovett holds up a cicada infected by massospora, a parasitic fungus. WVU Photo/Angie Macias

“The fungus could more or less lay in wait inside its host for the next 17 years until something awakens it, perhaps a hormone cue,” Kasson said in the release.

Alternatively, the nymphs might also get infected in their 17th year, on their way up to the surface.Either way, these infected cicadas are harmless to humans.

“They’re very docile,” Lovett said. “You can walk right up to one, pick it up to see if it has the fungus (a white to yellowish plug on its back end) and set it back down. They’re not a major pest in any way.”


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new recon helicopter might be on the chopping block

The Army has been looking for a new scout helicopter to replace the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior for over two decades. Between budget cuts and iffy cancellation decisions, a number of contenders, notably the RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho, have failed to make the cut. Now, the Army is hoping to get another chance to replace the Kiowa, which retired from U.S. Army service in 2017.

However, it’s looking like Congress may put the kibosh on putting any new birds in the sky.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Army’s desire to buy a new recon helicopter is being questioned by some on Capitol Hill. There are concerns surfacing about whether manned helicopters can survive on a modern battlefield full of advanced missiles and self-propelled guns. Currently, the Army is using AH-64 Apaches to fill the gap in reconnaissance capabilities left by the Kiowa’s retirement.

The Army has long planned to find a new scout/utility bird under the Future Vertical Lift program, but now it seems they’re looking to get results faster — and they’ve requested $75 million (couch-cushion money in the DOD budget) to do so. One of the reasons for the rush is that the Apache, as impressive as it is, is not exactly the best choice for recon.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was retired without a replacement — and the scouting mission got handed over to the AH-64 Apache.

(US Army)

Under the Future Vertical Lift program, one of the proposed Joint Multi-Role helicopters, the JMR-Light, is intended to be a scout/light-utility helicopter. One likely contender for that role, Lockheed’s S-97 Raider, has recently been cleared for full flight testing. The helicopter first flew in 2015 and can reach a blistering 220 knots, according to Lockheed Martin.

Although the S-97 is extremely capable, the Army has expressed a desire for a “pure” scout helicopter — Congress, however, citing the concerns mentioned earlier, don’t share that desire.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

The AH-64 Apache carries the same rocket pods and Hellfire missiles as the S-97 Raider, but it carries a lot of them.

(US Army)

The Raider is capable of using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, as well as 2.75-inch rocket pods and either a 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine gun. The Raider can transport up to six troops and has a range of 323 nautical miles. It can carry the fuel needed for almost three hours of sustained flight time.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

The ARH-70 Arapaho didn’t make the cut — one of several efforts to replace the OH-58 that failed,

(US Army)

The Raider is not the only experimental system being considered to fill a gap in recon capabilities. Bell is offering a family of tilt-rotor aircraft, including the V-280 Valor and the V-247 unmanned aerial vehicle. Other companies are also offering prototypes, seeking to get in on a contract that’ll likely be a massive financial windfall.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The next generation of the SR-71 Blackbird is twice as fast

The Lockheed SR-71 was an awesome plane. It could go fast, it could go high, and it was very hard to detect on radar. The problem was, the United States didn’t build that many of them — a grand total of 32 planes were built. The SR-71 was retired in 1990 by George H. W. Bush but was brought back, briefly, in the ’90s before being sent out to pasture for good.


But there have been rumors of a replacement — something called the “Aurora.” This rumored replacement appeared in a 1985 budget line item in the same category as the U-2 Dragon Lady and the SR-71. The name stuck as the speculated successor to the SR-71, which the Air Force seemed all too happy to retire.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels
Lockheed SR-71 in flight over California. It was initially retired in 1990. (USAF photo)

In 2006, Aviation Week editor, Bill Sweetman, declared he’d found budgetary evidence that the Aurora had been operating, saying,

My investigations continue to turn up evidence that suggests current activity. For example, having spent years sifting through military budgets, tracking untraceable dollars and code names, I learned how to sort out where money was going. This year, when I looked at the Air Force operations budget in detail, I found a $9-billion black hole that seems a perfect fit for a project like Aurora.

But there is another successor — one that doesn’t require a crew. This is the SR-72, and it may be twice as fast as the Mach 3 Blackbird. The Mach 6 drone is said to be able to reach some of the same heights as the SR-71. What’s unique about this unmanned aircraft is that it will carry two types of engines. There will be a normal jet engine to get the plane up to Mach 3 and a ramjet to push it to its top speed.

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels
SR-72 in flight over the ocean. The plane, reportedly, can reach Mach 6. (Image from Lockheed Martin)

The SR-72 may be slated to enter service in 2030, but Popular Mechanics reported that Lockheed had announced progress on the project. More tellingly, that same publication reported that a demonstrator was seen at the Skunk Works plant. America’s super-fast eye in the sky may be here sooner than expected.

Learn more about this new plane in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnRXf1vBkbk
(Dung Tran |YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

A major ISIS figure whom everyone thought was killed in Syria turned out to be living in a seaside town in Spain

The arrest in Spain of an infamous member of Islamic State from London who authorities thought had been killed in Syria has sparked fears among security officials that more foreign fighters survived the fall of ISIS-controlled territory than previously imagined.

Worse, sources tell Insider, he found a way to smuggle himself back into Europe by avoiding customs checks and biometric tracking at borders.


Abdel-Majed Abdel-Bary and two unnamed associates were arrested Monday by Spanish police in the Mediterranean port city of Almeria after coordination with the UK domestic intelligence service MI5, which had been attempting to track him since he left the UK to join ISIS in Syria in 2015.

He once posed with a severed head

Abdel-Bary is the son of Adel Abdel Bari, who has been accused of killing 224 people in various bomb attacks across Africa. Some believe he is linked to the terror cell that committed the Bataclan massacre in Paris in 2015.

He is one of the best-known of European ISIS members to have been arrested after returning to Europe from Syria since the arrests of members of the “Molenbeek Cell” in Brussels that conducted terror attacks across France and Belgium from 2014 to 2016.

Abdel-Bary grew up in a council house in Maida Vale, North London. His address was not far from that of Mohammed Emwazi, better-known as “Jihadi John.” When video footage emerged of three ISIS suspects putting a knife to the throat of American journalist James Foley, officials initially suspected Abdel-Bary might be “Jihadi John” before later attributing the identity as Emwazi. Abdel-Bary did, however, once pose with a severed head.

Intelligence sources said they were shaken that such a major figure could make his way back into Europe undetected.

“This is a major problem,” a counter-terrorism official in Belgium told Insider.

“Abdel-Bary isn’t some Syrian guy nobody has ever heard of. He’s a well-known jihadist from a well-known jihadist family who was active on social media from Syria and was closely linked to both the cyber-caliphate activities of Junaid Hussain and the cell of UK fighters who controlled the Western hostages in Raqqa. Now it turns out he’s not dead but rather living in a rented apartment on the Spanish coast.”

‘Who else is living here inside Schengen and able to move around freely without showing ID?’

Spanish police did not identify the men beyond a statement that claimed, “One of the most sought terrorists in Europe, both because of his criminal trajectory in the ranks of [ISIS] and because of the high danger that he represented.”

UK officials subsequently identified one of the men as Abdel-Bary to the British media, a claim confirmed by EU intelligence officials.

The official said the immediate suspicion was that Abdel-Bary was able to make his way back to Europe at some point in the last few years amid the ongoing flood of civilian refugees. More than 1.5 million people fled the region through Turkey and Greece in 2015. Tens of thousands more arrived in 2019 alone.

“There was an Interpol Red Notice on him, he could not have used his legal paperwork from the UK to enter the Schengen Zone and his biometric data was available because of previous drug arrests so if he tried to enter as a refugee since the new standards were implemented by Frontex that should have quickly flagged him,” said the official. The Schengen Zone is the area of 26 countries in mainland Europe through which citizens are allowed to move without passports.

“Who else is living here inside Schengen and able to move around freely without showing ID?” asked the Belgian official, who had tracked both the Molenbeek Cell and then assisted French and Belgian special forces in targeting Francophone fighters during the fighting in Mosul and Raqqa from 2016 to 2019.

His name should have been flagged the moment he entered Europe

A source with the Greek Interior Ministry told Insider that there was no biometric data that showed Abdel-Barry passed through Greece at any point, and that his name would have been flagged if he tried to enter Schengen on his UK passport.

While the UK targeted several of its own high-profile ISIS jihadists — Junaid Hussain and Mohammed Emwazi were both killed in drone strikes in 2015 — the French and Belgians, who had more than 1,000 suspects leave to join ISIS, were much more specific and aggressive. They targeted high-value French-speaking jihadists during the campaigns to retake Mosul and Raqqa.

The French intelligence services concluded around 2016 that there was little value in accumulating more defectors from the group, and switched to a policy of targeting French-speaking groups of fighters as they were detected in Iraq and Syria.

“The Brits sent troops to assist with the overall effort and they were very effective,” said one French official, who said he considers Abdel-Bary to be part of the same cell that did the 2015 Bataclan attacks, “But we specifically worked with the Belgians to make sure that most of ‘our’ guys couldn’t come home because they were dead. This is why we see more UK fighters detained by the Kurds than French of Belgian fighters. We worked very hard to kill as many as we could.”

They thought he had been killed in a drone strike

Abdel-Bary, 28, was involved in drug dealing and had a small star turn as a jihadi inspired rapper. He was influenced by his Egyptian-born father’s yearslong detention in the UK while awaiting extradition to the US on charges he was a member of al Qaida who helped plan the 1998 East African embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

His family links to al Qaida, short career as a mediocre rapper, and heavy social media presence in 2015 made him one of the most visible UK members of ISIS before he disappeared, He was believed to have been killed as the group lost stronghold after stronghold in Syria and Iraq from 2016, until last year’s final collapse of the proto caliphate in Baghuz.

He was believed to have traveled to Syria with Hussain, a UK born ISIS member who was considered a top computer expert for the group before being killed in a joint UK-US drone strike in the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2015.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

American and Afghan forces were briefing each other at a forward operating base on March 11, 2013, about that day’s mission when machine gun rounds suddenly rained down on them.


The group immediately looked to see where the shots were coming from. The lone airman in the group, then-Tech. Sgt. Delorean Sheridan, identified the source of the shots, which turned out to be coming from a truck in the base’s motor pool.

Related video:

“Initially, everyone starts to look to see what’s going on,” Sheridan, a combat controller, later told Stars and Stripes. “We’re accustomed to shooting, so our first instinct is, ‘OK, what is the person shooting at?’ I turned and looked back and I saw this guy shooting at me, and the light bulbs hit: It’s some guy trying to kill us.”

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

The shooter was a new member of the Afghan National Police who had slipped unnoticed to the bed of the truck and taken control of its machine gun.

It was a so-called “green-on-blue attack” — when supposed allies attack friendly forces. Meanwhile, insurgents from outside the base joined what was clearly a coordinated attack, sending more rounds into the grouped-up men. Bullet fragments even struck Sheridan’s body armor.

Sheridan decided that Afghan National Police officer or not, anyone who fired on him from within hand grenade range was conducting a near ambush and it was time to respond with force. He sprinted 25 feet to the truck and fired at his attacker up close and personal.

The airman hit the shooter two times with shots from his pistol and nine times with his M4, according to his award citation.

Once the on-base shooter was down, Sheridan ran back into the kill zone where the machine gun and AK fire from outside the base was still coming in. He grabbed the wounded and carried them to cover and medical aid.

As medics worked to save the wounded, Sheridan called in MEDEVAC flights for the 25 men hit in the fight — an airlift that required six helicopter flights. Twenty-three of them would survive the battle.

While the MEDEVACs were coming in and out, Sheridan assisted with carrying litters and called in strikes on the insurgent forces still attacking the base. The close air support broke up the enemy’s attacks and killed four of the militants.

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Sheridan was recognized for his valor with the Silver Star and a STEP promotion to master sergeant.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commanders are excited about US Space Force

President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2019, signed into law the US Space Force, the sixth military branch and first devoted to organizing, training, and equipping personnel to use and defend military space assets.

Trump signed a directive organizing the Space Force as part of the Air Force in February. With the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that Trump signed Dec. 20, 2019, US Air Force Space Command becomes Space Force but remains within the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department.


“Going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” Trump said Dec. 20, 2019. “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital … The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”

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President Donald Trump speaks during an event at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 20, 2019. Trump visited Andrews to thank service members before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 which support the Air Force’s advanced capabilities to gain and maintain air superiority and the airmen that are essential to our nation’s success.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)

Space Force is separate from NASA, the civilian space agency. Other agencies that work on space-related issues, like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, will continue operating as before.

But most of the Pentagon’s space programs will eventually be housed under the Space Force. Staffing and training details for the new branch will be sorted out over the next 18 months, Air Force officials said Dec. 20, 2019.

Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops into space; it will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which was set up in August and will lead military space operations.

The exact division of responsibilities and assets has not been fully worked out, but when the creation of Space Command was announced in December 2018, then-Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan compared the relationship to that of the other five military branches with the four functional combatant commands, such as Transportation Command, which manages transportation for the military, or Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear arms.

There are “still a lot of things that we don’t know,” Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command and US Space Command, told reporters Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond can lead Space Force as chief of space operations for a year without going through Senate confirmation, which his successor will have to have.

“There’s not a really good playbook on, how do you stand up a separate service?” Raymond said. “We haven’t really done this since 1947,” when the Air Force was created.

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US Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, May 7, 2017.

(US Air Force)

While much remains to be decided about Space Force and Space Command, conversations about how the latter will support operations on earth have already started, according to Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, one of the six geographic combatant commands.

“I talk to Gen. Raymond on a very regular basis. I would say probably once a week,” Wolters said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on December 10, when about potential partnerships between Space Command, European Command, and European allies.

“From a US EUCOM perspective, we have space componency that Gen. Raymond extends to us to allow us to better defend and better deter, and with each passing day we’re going to find ways to align the assets that exist in space to better deter and to better defend.”

Wolters spoke after NATO officially recognized space as an operational domain, alongside air, land, sea, and cyber, on November 20.

That recognition allows NATO to make requests of members, “such as hours of satellite communications,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time. NATO members own half of the 2,000 satellites estimated to be in orbit.

Wolters called that recognition “a huge step in the right direction.”

“In our security campaign, from a US EUCOM perspective and from a NATO perspective, we always have to improve in indications and warnings. We always have to improve in command and control and feedback, and we always have to improve in mission command. And we have to do that in space,” Wolters said.

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The Air Force launches a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017.

(US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)

Supporters see a Space Force as a national security necessity in light of other countries’ advancing space capabilities and because of potential threats in space, such as interference with systems like GPS.

Critics say it’s not clear what capabilities a Space Force brings that Air Force Space Command doesn’t already provide and that its creation will spur an arms race in space.

In recognizing space as a domain, NATO ministers agreed that space was “essential” to the alliance’s ability to deter and defend against threats, providing a venue for things like tracking forces, navigation and communications, and detecting missile launches.

Stoltenberg declined to say how NATO’s space-based capabilities could work with US Space Command, telling press on November 19 that he would “not go into the specifics of how we are going to communicate with national space commands and national space capabilities.”

“What NATO will do will be defensive,” he said, “and we will not deploy weapons in space.”

Wolters didn’t mention space-based weapons in his remarks this month but did tout capabilities offered by operations in space.

“Obviously there are things that take place in space at speeds and with a degree of precision that are very, very attractive for deterrence, and space-to-surface [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] is one of those key areas,” Wolters said, adding that he and Raymond have discussed and will continue to discuss those “big issues.”

“It all has to do with seeing the potential battle space, seeing the environment, and being able to have quick feedback on what is taking place in that environment,” Wolters said. “If you can obviously utilize the resources that exist in space, you can probably do so at a speed that makes commanders happy because they have information superiority.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US begins troop withdrawal from Syria but vows to kill ISIS

The United States has started bringing home troops from Syria as it moves to a new phase in the campaign against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, the White House says.

The militant’s “territorial caliphate” had been defeated, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Dec. 19, 2018, amid media reports saying that the United States was preparing to withdraw all its troops from Syria.


“These victories over [the IS group] in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” Sanders said.

Earlier, President Donald Trump tweeted the IS group had been defeated in Syria and that was his “only reason for being there.”

There are currently around 2,000 American troops in Syria, many of them special operations forces working with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias battling the IS group.

Most U.S. soldiers are based in northeastern Syria, where they had been helping to rid the area of IS fighters, but pockets of militants still remain.

CNN quoted a defense official as saying on Dec. 19, 2018, that the planning was for a “full” and “rapid” pullout.

And CBS said it was told that the White House ordered the Pentagon to “begin planning for an immediate withdrawal.”

The coalition has “liberated” the IS-held territory, but the campaign against the group “is not over,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

“For force protection and operational security reasons we will not provide further details. We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates,” White said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria creates prospects for a political settlement of the conflict there, according to the TASS news agency.

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Marines fire an 81mm mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Hajin, Syria, Aug. 4, 2018. The training is a portion of the building partner capacity mission, which aims to enhance the capabilities of Coalition partner forces fighting ISIS in northeast Syria.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Russia has repeatedly asserted that U.S. forces have no right to be in Syria because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has not approved their presence.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said a decision by Trump to withdraw troops from Syria at this time would be “a mistake” and a “big win” for the IS group, Assad, and its allies — Russia and Iran.

Both Moscow and Tehran have given Assad crucial support throughout the Syrian conflict, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011 and has left more than 400,000 people dead, displaced millions, and devastated many historical sites across the country.

In 2014, IS fighters seized large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory in a lightning offensive and proclaimed a so-called Islamic “caliphate.”

IS militants have lost virtually all the territory they once controlled in Iraq, but still carry out sporadic attacks.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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