Columbia/National Liberation Army (ELN) – Colombian President, and freshly-crowned Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Juan Manuel Santos and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group are to start peace talks, officials have reported on the 11 Oct 16. The negotiations with the 2,000-strong National Liberation Army (ELN) will start on the 27 Oct 16 in Ecuador's capital Quito, according to an agreement signed in Caracas by both sides under the auspices of Venezuela's government. "We are a special nation that grows despite adversities," Santos said in a speech after the announcement. "Peace won't slip through our fingers. On the contrary, it will be stronger, and now that we will advance with the ELN, it will be complete." Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize last week for his efforts to end a 52-year-old war with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - a surprising choice given voters then narrowly rejected the deal in a referendum. Reporting from Bogota, it is said the peace talk is expected to open doors to the possibility of complete peace in Colombia. "Many analysts here think that this announcement also boosts Santos' chances at reaching a deal with the opposition in Colombia since a narrow majority of Colombians voted against the current peace accord with the bigger rebel group, the FARC," a correspondent said. "Santos with the oppositions is looking at the changes to that accord to save the peace and there is no doubt that this announcement could help this process." Colombia and the ELN agreed in Mar 16 to launch peace talks, in parallel with the government's negotiations with the FARC, but the government said negotiations with the ELN could not begin until the group freed all of its hostages. In the text presented in Caracas, the ELN vowed to "initiate the process to free hostages before October 27". The Red Cross said ELN fighters had handed over the latest hostage, who it did not identify, in a remote area in Arauca, on the Venezuelan border. Catholic Church sources identified the hostage as Nelson Alarcon, kidnapped three months ago. The last two leftist guerrilla groups, the FARC and ELN, have been at war with the state since 1964. The ELN is estimated to be about one fourth the size of the FARC, with about 1,500 fighters. Meanwhile, FARC leader Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez tweeted that the ELN could "count on our militant support and solidarity. Many successes in this process that has now started". Formal peace talks with the ELN would mark another victory for Santos, who has staked his legacy on ending the oldest armed conflict in the Americas.
Latin America/Hezbollah – Three Hezbollah associates face charges on suspicion of laundering drug money for the Colombian cartel after it was claimed they illegally moved $500,000 into Miami banks in a series of international transactions, the Miami herald has reported on the 13 Oct 16. The ring leader is a 31-year-old man called Mohammad Ahmad Ammar, who was living in Medellín, Colombia, the report added. He was booked last week with state felony money laundering charges. The other two face charges in the same case, one of whom is in custody in Paris, while the other remains at large, possibly in Lebanon or Nigeria, the report added. This latest bust underscores the increased attention being turned on the role of Middle Eastern terror groups using Latin American financial networks to raise revenue from drug money. The report added that radical Islam terror groups from the Middle East have become increasingly active in the region. “Drug dealers, potential terrorists and money launderers should all get the message that Miami-Dade County is not the place to do your dirty business,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. A congressional report published in Nov 12 on border security noted that Latin America has “become a money laundering and major fundraising centre” for Hezbollah, the report added. There are records dating back several years that seem to show that Hezbollah has been active in the region for some time. Ammar , who is now in custody in Miami is described in court documents as a “Hezbollah associate whose job was to launder money for the Colombian cocaine operation known as La Oficina, or The Office, an off-shoot of the notorious Medellín cartel”. It is also claimed in court documents that his father is a “well-connected Hezbollah associate living in Los Angeles”. Also facing charges is suspected Hezbollah associate, Ghassan Diab, who remains at large, possibly in Nigeria or Lebanon. The third man facing charges is Hassan Mohsen Mansour, another Hezbollah associate with dual Lebanese and Canadian citizenship, who is in custody in Paris.
United States/Da’esh – FBI director James Comey on the 29 Sep 16 warned that the increasing success of the military campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq carries an ominous downside: a wave of terrorist fighters who will spread across the globe as the group loses control of its territory on the ground. “The so-called caliphate will be crushed. The challenge will be: through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of very, very dangerous people,” Comey said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on the global terror threat. “They will not all die on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq. There will be a terrorist diaspora sometime in the next two to five years like we’ve never seen before.” “We must prepare ourselves and our allies particularly in Western Europe to confront that threat because when ISIL is reduced to an insurgency and those killers flow out they will try to come to Western Europe and try to come here to kill innocent people,” the FBI director said. He said the wave of fighters will be larger than the one that came out of Afghanistan after the war there in the 1980s. National Counterterrorism Centre director Nicholas Rasmussen said intelligence officials had long predicted the threat would metastasize as ISIL was squeezed. “It’s not surprising. It puts us in a period of sustained vulnerability that I don’t think any of us are comfortable with. But I think it’s a reality,” he said.
United States/Iran – The US army reported that the missiles launched by Houthi militias targeting its navy ship in the Red Sea were “C202 silkworm” missiles that Iran had imported from China it was reported on the 15 Oct 16. Iran has been using the coasts of Shabwa and Hadramout to traffic weapons to Houthi militias, thus violating the Security Council’s decision to ban the export of arms to rebel militias. Iran did not only provide weapon to Yemeni militias, as it has also transported arms to the Popular Mobilization units in Iraq and Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Moreover, Iran has even sent arms and gear to Syrian militias. It has previously supplied the Popular Mobilization militia with tens of Scud missiles, shells and launchers, and so it did with Hezbollah and Assad regime militias. It is worth mentioning that the weapons sent to these militias are imported from China, North Korea and Russia. Slight modifications on these weapons, including the change in their names, are undertaken in Iranian factories. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, confirmed that Iran is breaching international laws by providing weapon to the mentioned militias.
United States/Houthi’s/Yemen – US officials say a new round of missiles targeting an American warship in the Red Sea has been fired from a region of Yemen controlled by Houthi fighters. The USS Mason, a destroyer, launched countermeasures and was not hit in the 15 Oct 16 strike. Three US warships in the Red Sea detected the missiles, the US military said, amid rising tensions with the Iran-allied group. "The Mason once again appears to have come under attack in the Red Sea, again from coastal defence cruise missiles fired from the coast of Yemen," Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations, announced on the 15 Oct 16 in Baltimore. US officials initially said that surface-to-surface missiles had been fired at the USS Mason, USS Nitze and USS Ponce off the coast of Yemen starting around 1930 hrs GMT, though it was unclear how many. If confirmed, the missile launches would be the third attack in about a week targeting the Mason and other US ships. Earlier this week, the Mason, sailing in international waters off Yemen's coast, used unspecified countermeasures against incoming missiles, a military official said. The attempted missile strikes is the most serious escalation yet of US involvement in Yemen's civil war. US officials say the US wants to avoid getting embroiled in yet another war in the Middle East.