The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force

Several US military aircraft flew close to North Korea this weekend in a dramatic show of force to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.


US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers were escorted by F-15C Eagle fighter jets on Saturday in international airspace over waters east of North Korea.

The Pentagon said the flyover demonstrated the range of military options available to President Donald Trump.

A war between the two nations is looking increasingly likely as tensions between Trump and Kim Jong Un continue to escalate.

The US Air Force has done a number of flyovers in recent months but this is the most controversial one yet. Earlier this month, the US, South Korea, and Japan conducted joint military exercises over and near the Korean Peninsula.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
A B-1B Lancer takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 27, 2011, on a mission in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)

“This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take the DPRK’s reckless behaviour,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” White said. “North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”

North Korea’s foreign minister responded forcefully on Saturday to Trump’s fiery comments before the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week.

Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s foreign minister, said that Trump’s insults made “our rocket’s visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more,” according to The Associated Press.

He retaliated against Trump’s personal attack on the North Korean leader by calling the president “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania” who is holding “the nuclear button.”

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
Weapons dropped from U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea. The F-35Bs, assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conducted a sequenced bilateral mission with South Korean F-15K and Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-2 fighters. This mission is in direct response to North Korea’s intermediate range ballistic missile launch and emphasizes the combined ironclad commitment to regional allies and partners. (Republic of Korea Air Force photo)

Trump said at the UN that if North Korea didn’t back down from its nuclear aggression, the US would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

“No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” Trump said.

The president then went back to his latest nickname for the North Korean leader, saying, “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won#39;t be around much longer!/pmdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/911789314169823232″September 24, 2017/a/blockquote

script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″/script

North Korea has ramped up its nuclear aggression in recent weeks and fired a missile over Japan last week for the second time in two months.

Earlier this month, North Korea also conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, one the country said was a hydrogen bomb.

In August, following reports from the Defense Intelligence Agency that North Korea could make nuclear warheads small enough to fit on missiles and could have as many as 60 nuclear devices, Trump issued a sharp warning to the country.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Google drops out of $10-billion DoD contract competition

Google dropped out of the competition for a crucial Pentagon cloud computing contract valued at over $10 billion, the company confirms with Business Insider.

The news, which was originally reported by Bloomberg, comes on the same day that the search giant announced the shutdown of the Google+ social network, in the wake of reports of a major security lapse. It also comes just months after Google employees protested en masse over the company’s work with the United States military.

This $10 billion cloud contract, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), will be awarded to one company to build cloud services for the Department of Defense. Google says it will not to compete for the contract because it believes that it would conflict with its corporate principles, and because it believes it may not hold all of the necessary certifications.


“While we are working to support the US government with our cloud in many areas, we are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications,” a Google spokesperson said.

Companies competing for the contract must submit their bids by Oct. 12, 2018. As only one company will be awarded the contract, Amazon is seen as the frontrunner. Several companies, including Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft, were working together to oppose the winner-take-all approach, rather than splitting the contract among multiple vendors. Google, in particular, believes it would be in the Pentagon’s best interest to allow multiple clouds.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force

The Pentagon building.

“Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload.”

In early 2018, controversy emerged within Google over the company’s participation in Project Maven, an effort to build artificial intelligence for the Department of Defense to analyze drone video footage, which could be used to target drone strikes.

In April 2018, more than 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding that the company discontinue Project Maven and promise to never “build warfare technology.” Some employees even resigned in protest.

In June 2018, Google said it would not renew the contract once it expired, and that same month, it released a set of principles for its work in AI. According to those principles, Google will not design or deploy AI that can cause harm or injury to people, that can gather information for surveillance that “violates internationally accepted norms,” or that violates international law and human rights principles.

“We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local, and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently took meetings in Washington to try to rebuild the company’s relationship with the military amid all the employee unrest. The company faces allegations from President Donald Trump and his allies that it biases search results against politically conservative sources.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea ramps up production of its own anti-missile system

South Korea’s military is planning to mass produce the Cheongung, a self-developed midrange surface-to-air missile system after a reassessment or reappraisal.


The development of a long-range radar and an aerial infrared countermeasure may also restart after they were suspended, Newsis reported Dec. 26.

Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration made the announcements following the 108th arms acquisition project committee meeting.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
South Korea’s Cheongung. (Image Youtube Screengrab)

Discussions of mass production of the Cheongung, also known as the Cheolmae-2, or KM-SAM, began on Nov. 17, according to the South Korean press report.

The technology is part of the country’s homegrown anti-missile systems, the Korean Air and Missile Defense.

KAMD in turn is part of South Korea’s “three-axis system” that also includes Seoul’s homegrown anti-missile systems and Kill Chain, a pre-emptive strike system.

Defense authorities said programs to develop a fixed long-range radar system to detect North Korea aircraft, and infrared countermeasures, are to be suspended following the discovery of flaws, but to be resumed as “soon as possible,” according to Newsis.

Yonhap reported Dec. 26 LIG Nex1, a local defense contractor, developed the radar that failed in an operational test in 2014.

Also Read: Iran’s home-grown surface-to-air missile shows new military aspirations

“Multiple defects were found in the test and a violation of contract terms was also detected,” DAPA said.

South Korea’s military is planning to make changes following the explosion of a K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer in August, News 1 reported Dec. 26.

The military plans to install a black box in the artillery and require personnel to wear flame-resistant combat uniforms, according to the report.

The explosion, caused by a mechanical flaw, wounded four soldiers and killed three, according to Yonhap.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what being labeled a terrorist organization means for Iran

There’s no doubt the Trump Administration has long had a target for Iran. The Islamic Republic, for its part, makes it an easy antagonist for the United States. Now, the U.S. is taking the war of words one step further by designating the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.


While many groups are labeled as foreign terrorists by the United States, the IRGC is the first official military apparatus of an internationally recognized country to be labeled as such. Now what does that mean for the Revolutionary Guards and for Iran?

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force

The United States and Iran have not been friends since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 ousted the Shah and installed the Islamic Republic – who allowed American citizens to be held hostage for 444 days. Ever since, the two powers have always stopped just short of an outright shooting war, choosing instead to cause malicious harm to one another behind the scenes. Iran provided material support and outright aid to insurgent groups fighting the U.S. military during the 2003-2011 Iraq War while the United States has consistently backed anti-Iranian operations throughout the region for decades. Labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization changes the game a little.

The Revolutionary Guards are a unit intended to defend the Iranian government, not just its borders; and its mandate extends to anywhere in the world that could pose a threat to the Ayatollah and his system of government. Its main concern isn’t limited to potential invaders, the IRGC will go after any group or person who poses a legitimate threat to Iran, traditionally through any means necessary.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force

Iranian soldiers in Iraq.

As of April 8, 2019, the Trump Administration has designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. Now the IRGC is subject to a slew of financial restrictions that must be followed by citizens of the United States, and the move will pressure U.S. allies to follow suit. Americans and American companies cannot knowingly provide material support to institutions that might support the IRGC, specifically “currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel, transportation, and other physical assets, except medicine or religious materials.”

Revolutionary Guards members and people related to them can also be removed from the United States and any company holding IRGC assets must now retain them and report them to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. More importantly, this gives the U.S. more combat options under the most recent authorization for the use of military force.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force

IRGC Commander Qasam Soleimani with Iraqi troops fighting ISIS in Iraq.

The United States has been operating on the post-9/11 AUMF passed by Congress since 2001. In that time, the AUMF has allowed the military to deploy to more than 150 countries in support of anti-terror operations, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. If the Trump Administration tries to extend the AUMF to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, it could be tantamount to using the full force of the U.S. military against known IRGC units anywhere, under the 2001 AUMF.

Basically, all the President has to do to get the funds to invade Iran is to make a compelling argument that it’s harboring al-Qaeda. Which, to be clear, it is not. The brand of Islam espoused by al-Qaeda, and the brand taught by the mullahs in Iran have been at each others’ throats for centuries – so that argument would have to be incredibly compelling.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Canadian special forces got a new light combat vehicle

Through intense, specialized training, special operations units become the elite arm of any military. To make the most of their training, these units often get special tools.


According to reports, a new tool, the DAGOR ultra-light combat vehicle, has been delivered to Canadian special ops units. WATM got a good look at these vehicles at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo, where the DAGOR was on display with three litters and an M2 heavy machine gun.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
A soldier fires a heavy machine gun from the turret on a DAGOR. (Photo by Polaris)

So, why would a spec-ops unit not opt for something like the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)? Both of these vehicles can carry some heavy firepower, like the BGM-71 TOW missile or the M2 heavy machine gun.

The answer is, simply, that these vehicles are too big. While you can fit them into a C-130, you still need a good place to land to roll them out or air-drop them. Even then, when it’s time to leave, if you can’t arrange proper pickup, you now have the options of leaving it behind for the enemy to take (not a good idea) or blowing it up, and these vehicles are expensive. Yes, it is possible to have too much vehicle for a mission.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
Members of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment conducted a combined airborne operation and wing-exchange ceremony at Roger’s drop zone on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (Photo by Sgt. Elayseah Woodard-Hinton, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

The DAGOR is the type of vehicle that addresses these problems. Two of these can fit on a CH-47 Chinook (the Canadians have them on inventory as the CH-147F). They hold nine troops and can pack some serious firepower, including an M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun. They can go 500 miles on a tank of diesel fuel and can carry up to 3,000 pounds.

Learn more about the Canadian purchase in the video below.

The only bad news is, while the Canadian military can buy these, Polaris still asks people who request quotes to certify that they are an “authorized government purchaser, government supplier, educational institution, non-profit organization, or representing a government agency” and “not inquiring about Polaris Defense products for personal use.” So much for that joyride…

 

(New Update Defence | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Diplomat arrested in plot to blow up anti-Iran rally

An Iranian diplomat, along with five others, have been arrested over a plot to blow up an event of an exiled Iranian opposition group.

The event for the National Resistance Council of Iran (NRCI), an Iranian opposition organization based in Paris, also featured President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on June 30, 2018.

Belgian police intercepted two suspects on June 30, 2018, with 500 grams of a home-made explosive powder, as well as a detonation device in their car, Reuters reported, citing a joint statement by the Belgian prosecutor and Belgian intelligence services.


The suspects, reportedly a married couple in their thirties, were charged with attempted terrorist murder and preparation of a terrorist act. The NCRI said the woman had come from Iran to Belgium in 2009.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani
(Photo by Bill Fish)

According to The National, the Iranian diplomat was based in the Austrian capital of Vienna, and was arrested in Germany. The diplomat is suspected of having been in contact with the couple who were identified by Iranian exiles as residents of northern Antwerp.

The NCRI claimed the diplomat had been station chief of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in Vienna since 2014.

Three others were arrested in France as prosecutors determined if they were linked to the Brussels suspects, Reuters said, citing a French judicial source.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is due to visit Austria on July 4, 2018. In a tweet on July 2, 2018, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif referred to the foiled plot as a “false flag” operation.

“How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its ‘plotters’ arrested,” Zarif tweeted.

The NCRI event dubbed “Free Iran 2018 — the Alternative” took place on on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, just outside Paris. Along with Giuliani, it featured several former European and Arab ministers, and attracted a crowd of thousands, according to Reuters.

In a statement, Giuliani said the participants of the rally “appreciate and admire the fine work of law enforcement particularly in Belgium and France in arresting the terrorists who according to the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s office were planning an attack on the gathering supporting freedom from the theocratic oppressive regime in Iran.”

He added: “This accentuates the growing sense that the regime that is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world is increasingly weakened by constant large demonstrations in over 140 cities. It is also becoming apparent that Madam Maryam Rajavi and the NCRI pose a realistic alternative to this homicidal regime. Nothing could be worse for these misogynists than a movement seen as replacing them headed by a heroic woman.”

Iranian government regularly criticizes the group in state media.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukrainian sniper killed, husband injured, in ambush

A Ukrainian veteran sniper was killed, and her husband, who was accused in 2012 of trying to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wounded in a shooting on Monday near Kiev, Ukraine.


Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev were riding in a car past a railroad crossing in the village of Hlevakha when their vehicle came under heavy fire from someone in the bushes on the side of the road.

“She was shot in the head,” Osmayev told Lb.ua, a Ukrainian media outlet. “I drove as much as I could until the car stopped, I don’t know, the engine was also hit. I tried to give her first aid, but she was shot in the head.”

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
Ukrainian sniper Okuyeva Amina was rumored to have battled in a full hijab. (image Facebook)

Osmayev, who was also shot in the leg, has since accused Russia of orchestrating the attack. He said it was connected to a car bombing last week that wounded the Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk, who routinely insulted Russian politicians and once posted a video on YouTube threatening to kill Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s hand-picked leader of Chechnya.

Okuyeva had once worked for Mosiychuk as an adviser, according to Reuters.

This wasn’t the first assassination attempt the couple had faced. On June 1, Osmayev and Okuyeva were in a car with a man named Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev who was masquerading as a French journalist named Alex Werner.

At one point, Denisultanov-Kurmakayev asked them to pull the car over so he could give them a gift from his editors.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
Ukrainian sniper and national hero Okuyeva Amina was assassinated October 30th, 2017, in Ukraine.(image Sergiy Kondratenko Facebook)

“When he opened it I spotted a Glock pistol,” Okuyeva told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty after the June attack. “He immediately grabbed it and started shooting at Adam.”

Okuyeva then pulled out her gun and shot the would-be assassin three times before she “pounced on him with my bare hands and he gave up the gun,” she told the outlet.

Osmayev was shot in the chest, but his wife treated his wound “immediately,” and he survived that attack as well. Ukraine has since accused Russia of orchestrating the hit.

In 2012, Moscow accused Osmayev of plotting to kill Putin. He was arrested in Kiev in February 2012 on charges of possession of illegal explosives. At the behest of Russia, Ukrainian authorities charged him in connection with the plot.

Also Read: Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

But Kiev refused to extradite Osmayev, and the charges were eventually dropped. He was released from custody in November 2014 — months after Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president, fled to Russia and fighting started in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow in 2007 also accused Osmayev of plotting to kill Kadyrov.

Kadyrov has been implicated in several other assassinations, including the high-profile killing of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader who was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015, and most recently the car bombing in early September that killed Timur Mahauri, a Georgian citizen who fought with a volunteer Ukrainian battalion in the Donbas. Mahauri was reportedly a personal enemy of Kadyrov’s.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
Okuyeva Amina was more than a sniper. A surgeon, Okuyeva was considered a national hero long before her assassination Oct. 30, 2017. (image Facebook)

Okuyeva and Osmayev — both Muslims and ethnic Chechens — have been celebrated in Ukraine as heroes, having served in Chechen volunteer battalions fighting against Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas.

Okuyeva, who reportedly wore her hijab in battle and fought for equality among men and women in the military, was a paramedic and sniper. Osmayev became commander of the volunteer Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion in 2015.

“I declare a war on the Russian Empire,” Okuyeva told Politico in 2014. “If Russian forces continue to fight in Ukraine, thousands of Chechen immigrants living in Europe, who had been ousted of their land during the two Chechen wars, will come to Ukraine to fight a war to defend this country.”

There have been at least 13 other assassinations — and many more attempts — in Ukraine since 2014. In one, a Ukrainian colonel who was reportedly investigating Russia for an international court case was killed in a car bombing in Kiev in late June.

Articles

SEAL Team 6 operator killed in one of Trump administration’s first anti-terror missions

A member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six was killed during a Jan. 28 counter-terrorism raid in Yemen.


According to the Pentagon, three other personnel were wounded and two suffered injuries when a V-22 Osprey made a hard landing during the mission that targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The unflyable tiltrotor was destroyed after all personnel on board were rescued.

The SEAL who died was identified as Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois. The names of the wounded SEALs have not yet been released.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
Heavily-armed bodyguards from SEAL Team 6 provide close protection for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Image: Wikimedia

Fourteen members of the terrorist group were killed during the covert assault, the Pentagon said. News reports indicate the SEALs also killed a relative of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who preached at a mosque attended by some of the 9/11 hijackers and who was also involved in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting and the attempt to bring down an airliner with an underwear bomb on Christmas Day 2009.

The New York Times reported that MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopter gunships provided cover for the raid. An Air Force fact sheet notes that the MQ-9 Reaper is capable of carrying the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, and the GBU-38 GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
Operators from a west-coast based Navy SEAL team participated in infiltration and exfiltration training as part of Northern Edge 2009 June 15, 2009. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo/Lance Cpl. Ryan Rholes)

“In a successful raid against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula headquarters, brave U.S. forces were instrumental in killing an estimated 14 AQAP members and capturing important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world,” President Donald Trump said in a statement released on the attack.

“Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism,” he added. “The sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces, and the families they leave behind, are the backbone of the liberty we hold so dear as Americans, united in our pursuit of a safer nation and a freer world.”

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
A Marine Corps MV-22 lands in the desert. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

A statement by United States Central Command noted, “The operation resulted in an estimated 14 AQAP members being killed and the capture of information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”

“This is one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide. Similar operations have produced intelligence on al-Qa’ida logistics, recruiting and financing efforts,” CENTCOM added.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.

“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.

“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.

Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.

With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.

The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.

Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.

“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.

Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.

Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.

Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.

Georgia

The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.

“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.

Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.

“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.

Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.

They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.

The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.

Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.

One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.

No deaths have been reported so far.

However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.

The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.

Ukraine

Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.

Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.

Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.

As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.

Russia

Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.

The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.

Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”

Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.

A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.

It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.

Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.

Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.

The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.

Serbia

Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.

However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.

Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.

“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”

The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.

Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.

The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.

Pakistan

Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.

Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.

Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.

Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.

Uzbekistan

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.

A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.

He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”

Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.

On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.

Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.

The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.

The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.

Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.

The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.

In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.

Armenia

A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.

It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.

The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.

Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.

Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.

Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.

Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.

The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.

The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.

“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.

Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.

“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.

Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.

Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.

Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.

According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.

All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.

Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.

In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.

Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.

Afghanistan

The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.

“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.

“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.

About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”

Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.

The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.

Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.

So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just commissioned a new Littoral Combat Ship

The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest warship, the USS Omaha, on Feb. 3. The futuristic, $440 million vessel is named for the Nebraska hometown of billionaire Warren Buffett, who was on hand for the ceremony.


The Omaha, a 218-foot-long littoral combat ship, was commissioned at its new home port in San Diego.

Buffett’s daughter, Susie Buffett, who was designated as the ship’s sponsor, gave the traditional order for officers and crew: “Man our ship and bring her to life.”

“Aye, aye, ma’am,” they replied and ran to the ship as a band struck up “Anchors Aweigh.”

The aluminum-clad Omaha is designed for missions close to shore. It has high-tech computer capabilities and can be reconfigured for various missions, including anti-submarine warfare and anti-mine operations.

“She is a beautiful ship,” said Cmdr. Michael Toth, the commanding officer. “To be at her helm is more akin to flying an aircraft with a pilot and a co-pilot than to conning a traditional warship.”

Other dignitaries at the ceremony included Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, and former Nebraska Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Navy veteran and Medal of Honor recipient.

“I am proud to share our name, our heritage, and our community values with USS Omaha and its commander,” Stothert said. “We wish you safety on your missions.”

Also Read: The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships are getting hellfire missiles

Ricketts, whose state is landlocked, said it was a unique honor, and designated the entire crew as “an admiral in the great Navy of the state of Nebraska.”

The ship is the fourth to carry the Omaha name since 1869. The last vessel was an attack submarine that was decommissioned in 1995.

“She represents the strength and the fortitude of her city and her state,” U.S. Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said at the ceremony. “This ship is ready to deliver the fight tonight.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lockheed Martin dreams of F-35 killer

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter has cost more money than any weapons system in history, but a bright new idea from the same company could see its best bits gutted and slapped into the world’s deadliest combat jet: The F-22.

The F-22’s development started in the 1980s, when computers took up much more space. That didn’t stop Lockheed’s engineers from building a 62-foot-long, 45-foot-wide twin-engine fighter jet with the radar signature of a marble.


The F-22 even kicked off a new category of fighter. Instead of air superiority, like the F-15, F-22s wear the crown of air dominance, as it can dogfight with the best of them or pick them off from long range before it’s even seen.

The F-35 benefits from stealth in much the same way, but with a smaller frame, smaller weapons loadout, and a single engine, it mainly works as shorter range missions with a focus on hunting down and destroying enemy air defenses, rather than aerial combat.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force

An F-22A Raptor (top) from the 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and an F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter from the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., fly over the Emerald coast Sept. 19, 2012.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

The F-35 can do this much better than the F-22 because it’s got newer technology and compact computing and sensors all around it.

So Lockheed has proposed, as Defense One reported, putting the F-35s brains, its sensors and computers, inside an F-22 airframe for an ultimate hybrid that would outclass either jet individually.

Instead of a sixth-generation fighter — a concept that the US has earmarked hundreds of millions for and which strains the imagination of even the most plugged in military planner as the world hasn’t even adjusted to fifth generation fighters — why not combine the best parts of demonstrated concepts?

“That can be done much, much more rapidly than introducing a new design,” David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who now leads the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Defense One.

But what seems like a giant windfall for the US, having on hand two jets that could be combined into the best the world’s ever seen, could actually upstage the F-35, which has only just now started to make deliveries to US allies.

The US will spend a solid trillion dollars on the F-35 program, and will export it to NATO and Asian allies, but while the jet solves a lot of problems around modern air combat, it’s not a one-size-fits all solution.

In that way, an F-22/F-35 hybrid could preserve the best parts of both jets in a new and powerful package that could put the US miles beyond anything its adversaries can touch, but in doing so, it could kill the F-35 before it even gets a chance to prove itself.

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

Articles

Army picks Sig Sauer to replace M9 service pistol

The U.S. Army on Thursday awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth $580 million to make the service’s next service pistol.


Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, the maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol.

“I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System team,” Army Acquisition Executive Steffanie Easter said in a Jan.19 press announcement. “By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we have optimized private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines, and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters.”

The Army did not offer any details about what caliber the new Sig Sauer pistol will be.

Related: The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

The service launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. One of the major goals of the effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.

Army weapons officials informed Beretta USA and FN America at SHOT Show 2017 that they had been dropped from the XM17 Modular Handgun System in a recent down-select decision, according to a service source who is not authorized to speak to the press.

The decision formally ends the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.

Beretta has fought hard to remain to remain the Army’s pistol maker. In December 2014, Beretta USA submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
A soldier fires a Beretta M9 pistol. | US Army photo

But the Army rejected the improved M9A3 which featured new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability.

Beretta was not finished yet. It developed a new striker-fired pistol, the APX and entered it into the APX.

The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. It could result in the Defense Department buying nearly 500,000 new pistols.

Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns, according to Program Executive Office Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.

The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.

“As MHS moves forward into operational testing, the due diligence taken by all of the stakeholders will ensure a program that remains on-budget and on-schedule.” Easter said.

Articles

Key ISIS commander taken out in US strike

Conflicting reports from U.S. officials and terrorist leaders suggest a top commander of the militant Islamic State group might have been killed in a U.S. airstrike near the embattled Syrian town of Aleppo.


The Pentagon said in a release late yesterday that a precision airstrike had targeted a vehicle that officials say Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was riding in. Al-Adnani was believed to be the ISIS group’s top spokesman and a key player in inspiring so-called “lone wolf” attacks on Western targets, including the shooting rampages in Paris, France, and Orlando, Florida.

The US just flew bombers above the DMZ in latest show of force
Al-Adnani was believed to be the number two commander for the Islamic State group and was a key recruiter and operational planner for the terrorist organization. (Photo: France 24 YouTube)

“Al-Adnani has served as principal architect of ISIL’s external operations and as ISIL’s chief spokesman,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement. “He has coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members.”

While the American military was uncertain whether Al-Adnani had been killed in the strike on Al Bab, near Aleppo, the Islamic State confirmed his death in a statement.

Analysts say the result, if confirmed, is an effective blow against the terrorist group, which has seen its hold on territory in both Iraq and Syria wither under U.S., coalition and Russian air and ground assaults in recent weeks.

“He was an important Islamic State leader and one of the top remaining leaders of the old guard,” said terrorism analyst and founder of The Long War Journal Bill Roggio. “It’s definitely a good kill.”

But while ISIS has now lost three of its top leaders in one year, the death of al-Adnani could have the unintended consequence of bringing rival terrorist groups together. For years, Roggio says, al-Adnani has been at odds with al Qaeda — eventually causing a very public split and disavowal from Osama bin Laden’s successor, Aymen al Zawahiri.

With al-Adnani gone and only one of the Islamic State’s founding leaders left on the battlefield, the group behind the 9/11 attacks could rise as ISIS falls.

“In it’s way, al-Adnani’s death could pave the way for a rapprochement with al Qaeda,” Roggio said. “It could have implications that could bolster other jihadist movements.”

Al-Adnani may have been an important leader and a key victory in the war against ISIS, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. military is planning to stop going after them anytime soon.

“The U.S. military will continue to prioritize and relentlessly target ISIL leaders and external plotters in order to defend our homeland, our allies, and our partners, while we continue to gather momentum in destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and combat its metastases around the world,” Pentagon spokesman Cook said.