- U.S. intelligence set back when Libya base abandoned
- Kyrgyzstan says ousted leader's son arrested in London
- U.N. Security Council cuts size of Haiti peacekeeping force
Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:46 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence efforts in Libya have suffered a significant setback due to the abandonment and exposure of a facility in Benghazi, Libya identified by a newspaper as a "CIA base" following a congressional hearing this week, according to U.S. government sources.
The intelligence post, located 1.2 miles (2 km) from the U.S. mission that was targeted by militants in a September 11 attack, was evacuated of Americans after the assault that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Three other Americans died in the attacks on U.S.-occupied buildings, including two who were hit in a mortar blast at the secret compound.
The publication of satellite photos showing the site's location and layout have made it difficult, if not impossible, for intelligence agencies to reoccupy the site, according to government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The post had been a base for, among other things, collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles, the sources said. Its security features, including some fortifications, sensors and cameras, were more advanced than those at rented villa where Stevens died, they said.
The sources said intelligence agencies will find other ways to collect information in Libya in the aftermath of last year's toppling of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.
"Benghazi played a critical role in the emergence of the new Libya and will continue to do so. It makes sense that we would return there to continue to build relationships," one U.S. official said.
Public discussion of the top-secret location began with a contentious Wednesday hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which was investigating whether security lapses put Americans at risk.
The State Department displayed a satellite photograph showing two locations - the rented villa that served as a special diplomatic mission and the compound that officials had cryptically described as an "annex" or "safe house" for diplomatic personnel.
Both compounds were attacked by militants believed to be tied to al Qaeda. After the diplomatic complex was overrun, U.S. and Libyan personnel rushed by car to the second site, where they fought off two more waves of assaults, officials said.
Charlene Lamb, a top official in the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, told lawmakers that the secret compound took "as many as three direct hits."
Two U.S. security officials, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were killed there in what U.S. officials described as an unlucky mortar strike. As many as 37 people eventually escaped to Benghazi's airport.
When the satellite photo was displayed, a senior committee Republican, Representative Jason Chaffetz, complained that the discussion was drifting into "classified issues that deal with sources and methods," and the photo was removed from public display. No one at the hearing used the term "CIA base" to describe the facility.
The next morning, Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist, wrote that the committee's "boneheaded questioning" of State Department witnesses left little doubt that the compound in the pictures was a "CIA base."
The Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with ties to the Obama White House, followed up with a blog post accusing Republicans of revealing the "Location Of Secret CIA Base."
On Friday, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, accused Republicans of mishandling secret information.
Spokespeople for the State Department and White House had no comment. The CIA also had no comment.
Oversight committee spokesman Frederick Hill said committee Democrats made matters worse by asking questions about the satellite photos. "Even after Republicans objected, Democrats continued to ask questions that led State officials to put even more sensitive information about who worked there into the public realm," Hill said.
The dispute over who was responsible for identifying the base is the latest case in which intelligence agencies - particularly the CIA - have been dragged into a political fray over the Benghazi attack.
The Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks has become fodder for criticism from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan ahead of the November 6 election.
Intelligence officials are not happy at being drawn into the political battle. Paul Pillar, one of the CIA's former most senior analysts, said the agency is sure to be dismayed at how its sensitive work has been dragged into the debate.
"They're trying to do the best they can with fragmentary and incomplete information. No doubt they are very unhappy that this issue is now being exploited for political purposes," Pillar said.
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 12 Oct 2012 03:17 PM PDT
BISHKEK (Reuters) - Maxim Bakiyev, son of Kyrgyzstan's fugitive former president, was arrested in London on Friday at the request of Kyrgyzstan and the United States, which want him "for grave crimes", the Kyrgyz president's office said.
"Because of the absence of an extradition agreement between the Kyrgyz Republic and Great Britain, the British side is now considering the issue of extraditing Maxim Bakiyev to the United States," the presidency said in a statement.
"Maxim Bakiyev is charged with crimes which under U.S. law are punishable with a long term in jail."
British police said the 34-year-old Bakiyev was arrested by extradition officers on the request of U.S. authorities, who want to question him for alleged involvement in fraud. He had voluntarily visited a police station in central London by appointment.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was given shelter by Belarus after crowds of protesters seized his government headquarters in an April 2010 revolt in which about 90 people were killed when security forces opened fire on opposition supporters.
Belarus, run by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, has repeatedly rejected Kyrgyzstan's requests to extradite the former president, who is accused at home of "mass killings" of protesters during the coup.
Maxim Bakiyev, who under his father headed an investment agency, has been accused by the country's new authorities of involvement in large-scale frauds which stripped the impoverished ex-Soviet nation's coffers of millions of dollars.
Shortly after the fall of Bakiyev, Kyrgyzstan made a request to the international police organisation Interpol for his son to be detained.
Kyrgyzstan's ties with Belarus have soured in recent months after Minsk also declined to extradite the ex-president's younger brother Zhanybek, who headed his personal security guard and is also accused of committing mass killings.
Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Muslim Central Asian nation of 5.5 million, hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases and lies on a drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan.
It remains chronically unstable. Two presidents, including Bakiyev, have been toppled since 2005. Some 500 people were killed in interethnic clashes in the country's south in June 2010.
Three opposition nationalist parliamentarians were arrested last Friday and charged with attempting to stage a coup after they led a crowd which tried to storm government headquarters in a protest over a gold mine run by Canadian firm Centerra Gold.
Last week's clashes between police and opposition supporters were the most violent in Bishkek since April 2010, when Bakiyev fled from the same government building to escape popular anger.
(Additional reporting by Matt Falloon in London, Writing by Dmitry Solovyov, Editing by Michael Roddy)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 12 Oct 2012 02:20 PM PDT
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Friday approved for another year the world body's peacekeeping force in Haiti, but it will be cut in size by about 15 percent as it hands over security responsibility to the Haitian national police.
The 15-nation council unanimously approved a reduction of authorized troops and police by 1,710 to 8,871, as recommended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. There are now about 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti, and Ban recommended a gradual drawdown to be completed by June 2013.
Haiti is still struggling to recover from a strong January 2010 earthquake that killed about 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless.
The U.N. force, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, was established in 2004 to help Haiti's short-staffed and ill-equipped police maintain security, especially during elections plagued by fraud and unrest. The force's size was increased after the earthquake.
Dozens of countries contribute troops and police to the force.
The U.N. force became highly unpopular in Haiti after peacekeepers were blamed by locals for a cholera outbreak two years ago this month that has sickened almost 600,000 people and killed more than 7,400 in the Caribbean nation, the poorest in the western hemisphere.
An independent panel appointed by Ban to study the epidemic issued a report in May 2011 that the United Nations said did not determine conclusively how cholera was introduced into Haiti.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June 2011 found that evidence strongly suggested U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal were the source.
In March, two U.N. peacekeepers from Pakistan were sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy after being convicted in a Pakistani military trial in Haiti.
That rape case triggered renewed protests and demands from Haitian senators that U.N. peacekeepers be stripped of immunity and be tried in a Haitian court.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Will Dunham)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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