Columbia/Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Colombia's FARC rebel group has voted unanimously to approve a peace deal with the government, declaring an end to the five-decade war as it prepares to transition into a new political party it was reported on the 24 Sep 16. After four years of negotiations in Havana, the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia reached a final peace accord last month that will end a war that has left a quarter of a million people dead. "Peace is the most beautiful of victories," rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, who uses the nom de guerre Timochenko, told a crowd of hundreds of FARC fighters on the 23 Sep 16 at the close of the guerrillas' congress on the southern Yari Plains. "We yearn that no Colombians will ever again have to take up arms to make their voices heard and their demands felt, as has been required of us," Timochenko said to cheers and applause. As part of the agreement, FARC will continue to push for social change as a political party, receiving 10 unelected seats in congress until 2026. FARC's leaders have been coy on policy details but are expected to morph the group into a party rooted in Marxist ideals. Another congress to officially found the party will be held no later than May 2017, FARC commander Ivan Marquez said at the ceremony. Two-hundred delegates from FARC units around the country gathered at the Yari site, five hours by rutted road from the nearest provincial town, to review the accord and discuss re-organisation in peacetime. "We inform the country and the government and the governments and people of the world that the rebel delegates of the congress have given unanimous backing to the final accord," Marquez said. The peace accord is due to be signed on Monday by President Juan Manuel Santos and Timochenko. Colombians will vote on the deal in an October 2 plebiscite, the final go-ahead for rebels to demobilise. Polls show the accord will easily pass. But Arlene Tickner from the University Del Rosario said the first question is whether Colombians will vote in favour of the deal. "The expectation is that it will pass, but there is huge opposition being led by two ex-presidents… It is quite a profound agreement in terms of the types social, economic, and political changes it proposes, and I think there are certain sectors of the population - mostly conservative sectors - who are fearful of what this means for their interests." The congress, the first ever open to media, marks the group's final meeting as a guerrilla army. Previous congresses, to decide battle strategy, were sometimes held via internet because of military offensives that prevented leaders from meeting. Although both leadership and rank-and-file fighters say they will prioritise political activism as civilians, the group has so far not provided examples of specific policies. "Our initial platform is the implementation of the Havana accords," Pastor Alape, a member of the FARC's secretariat said. "Our political proposals will have to come from the suggestions of our base. "We started our political efforts clandestinely and now we aspire, legally, to open our initiatives, together with all sectors of society, to concretely cultivate the political space we are given," Alape said. The five-point peace accord covers agricultural reform, an end to the illegal drugs trade, victims' reparations, FARC political participation and demobilization. One mid-level rebel fighter said the group wants to decentralise Colombia's government, including halving the size of Congress, in a bid to combat corruption and ensure communities have control over distribution of royalties from oil and mining projects.
Columbia/Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Marxist rebel leader Timochenko used a pen made from a bullet on the 25 Sep 16 to sign an agreement ending a half-century war that killed a quarter of a million people and made their nation a byword for violence. After four years of negotiations in Havana, Santos, 65, and Timochenko - a nom de guerre for 57-year-old revolutionary Rodrigo Londono - shook hands on the 25 Sep 16 on Colombian soil for the first time. Some 2,500 foreign and local dignitaries attended the ceremony in the walled, colonial city of Cartagena. The agreement to end Latin America's longest-running conflict turns the FARC fighters into a political party fighting at the ballot box instead of the battlefield they have occupied since 1964. The special pen was used "to illustrate the transition of bullets into education and future", said Santos, who staked his reputation on achieving peace. Guests included United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, Cuban President Raul Castro, US Secretary of State John Kerry and victims of the conflict. "The UN will assist in the implementation of the accord and offer Colombians our complete support at a time that sees a new destiny for the nation," Ban said. The European Union said on the 25 Sep 16 it was removing the group from its "terror" list simultaneously with the peace signing. Kerry lauded the deal during a visit to a training centre for war victims, ex-combatants and other young people. "Anybody can pick up a gun, blow things up, hurt other people, but it doesn't take you anywhere ... Peace is hard work," he said. The US Department of State has pledged $390m for Colombia next year to support the peace process. Washington would also review whether to take the FARC off its list of "terrorist organizations", Kerry said. Despite widespread relief at an end to the bloodshed and kidnappings of past decades, the deal has caused divisions within Latin America's fourth-largest economy. Influential former president Alvaro Uribe and others are angry that the accord allows rebels to enter parliament without serving any jail time. Colombians will vote on the 2 Oct 16 on whether to ratify the agreement, but polls show it should pass easily. In Cartagena huge billboards urged a "yes" vote, while Uribe led hundreds of supporters with umbrellas in the colours of the Colombian flag urging voters to back "no". Colombia has performed better economically than its neighbours in recent years, and peace should reduce the government's security expenditures and open new areas of the country for mining and oil companies. But criminal gangs may try to fill the void, land mines could hinder development, and rural poverty remains a huge challenge. With peace achieved, Santos, a member of a wealthy Bogota family, will likely use his political capital to push an economic agenda, tax reforms in particular, to compensate for a drop in oil income caused by a fall in energy prices.
Mexico/Drugs – The sons of imprisoned drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman are suspected of launching an ambush on a military convoy in northern Mexico which killed five soldiers and injured 10 others. State and military officials said on the 1 Oct 16 that some 60 gunmen freed drug suspect Julio Oscar Ortiz Vega, also known as "El Kevin", in Culiacan city in Sinaloa state, as he was being escorted by soldiers to a hospital in an ambulance. Vega had been injured in an earlier gunfight. General Alfonso Duarte, a regional commander, told reporters that Guzman's sons were "very probably" responsible for the attack. Duarte said the convoy was ambushed by armed men hurling grenades which caused two vehicles to burst into flames. The suspect was "being transferred to Culiacan for immediate medical attention ... but unfortunately this group acts in a premeditated, cowardly, treacherous way, using firearms and grenades," Duarte said. President Enrique Pena Nieto vowed on Twitter to bring those responsible to justice. "El Chapo" was re-captured earlier this year following his brazen escape from a maximum security prison in Jul 15. That escape was the second for "El Chapo" in 15 years and a major embarrassment for Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto. The notorious drug lord was first captured in 1993 in Guatemala, but he escaped from a prison in western Mexico in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart. He is currently in prison in Ciudad Juarez, a northern city on the US border.
United States –The first was on the 17 Sep 16at 0930 hrs local in New Jersey when a pipe bomb exploded in a rubbish bin. The intended target was the 5KM Semper Five run in Seaside Park which was a charity race where American servicemen and women were running, the device detonated but no injuries occurred due to the late start of the run due to an unattended bag.
On the 17 Sep 16 in St Cloud, Minnesota a male wearing a private security guards uniform stabbed eight people. The individual was heard to make references to Allah (questions similar to those asked in al-Shabaab attacks in Somalia and Kenya; “are you a Muslim”) before the perpetrator was shot dead by an off duty policeman. He was later identified by his father. The knifeman was a Somalian, Dahir A Adana twenty two year old and called himself a soldier of the Islamic State. Adan emigrated from Africa and was born in Mombasa, Kenya but it was unclear where he immigrated from. The attacker had lived in the United States for approximately 15 years and was a student at the St Cloud State University.
On the 17 Sep 16 in the busy area of Chelsea, New York City a device detonated injuring 29 people. The incident occurred at approximately 2100 hrs local. Some witnesses stated that the device exploded in black metal construction toolbox while others stated that it detonated in a Rubbish bin. A police official said that, ”We don’t understand the target or the significance. It’s a pile of dumpsters on a random sidewalk” The Mayor, Bill de Blasio, stated after the incident that although the details were unclear the act was “intentional” a clear indication that he was not going to elaborate nor speculate or give the perpetrators a platform in which to gloat over the act and gain publicity. Later a second device was discovered nearby and was dealt with. In later reports it was revealed that both devices were shrapnel filled ‘pressure cooker’ explosive devices which had flip phones that were probably used to detonate the devices, Christmas lights and explosive compounds. The last time a device of this type was used was in the 2013 Boston Marathon. The first reference to a pressure cooker was on the 1 May 2010 when a 30 year old Pakistani, Faisal Shahzad, was arrested after a failed terrorist attack in Times Square, Manhattan, New York when a car bomb was discovered. Once the robot had been sent forward to examine the vehicle inside was found, amongst other items, a pressure cooker.
Late on the 18 Sep 16 in Elizabeth, New Jersey two men were in a rubbish bin when they discovered a backpack containing several devices. The bag contained pipes and wires and was reported to the authorities. The bag was later examined by a robot and when a wire was cut the devices detonated.
Later the authorities described the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey as acts of terrorism. It was also stated that although the devices were crude they would not be associated with any international group. However, the attack in Minnesota was claimed by the Islamic State/Da’esh. But with no clear evidence by the authorities this may have been premature as the terrorist group had no knowledge of the future two attacks which they could have claimed.
Follow Up Report – US federal prosecutors have charged an Afghan-American with detonating and planting bombs in New York and New Jersey that left at least 31 people injured it was reported on the 21 Sep 16. The prosecutors said on the 20 Sep 16 that Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, carried out twin bombings on the 17 Sep 16 in Manhattan's Chelsea neighbourhood and along the route of a US Marine Corps run in the New Jersey town of Seaside Park. A criminal complaint was unsealed in Newark, New Jersey, shortly after a virtually identical filing was unsealed in New York. The Afghanistan-born American restaurant worker, who lives in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was critically injured in a police shootout on the 19 Sep 16. The 13-page indictment slapped him with four charges, including use of weapons of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use and destruction of property by means of fire or explosives. He will be transported to Manhattan to face the charges, said federal prosecutors in New York. If convicted, he risks spending the rest of his life behind bars. Prosecutors said 31 people were injured in the Chelsea attack on the 17 Sep 16. The bomb was a pressure-cooker device, packed with ball bearings and steel nuts, placed in a dumpster and detonated by a timed device, similar to a second pressure cooker bomb discovered four blocks away. Five pipe bombs found in Elizabeth and the second device safely defused in Chelsea were covered in the suspect's fingerprints, the indictment alleged. Surveillance footage also put him in Chelsea, and Rahami bought the ingredients for the bombs from eBay over the summer, prosecutors said. The indictment says video recovered from the mobile phone of a relative of Rahami shows him lighting incendiary material in a cylindrical container two days before the bombings. The charges come after the FBI admitted that they investigated Rahami for terrorism in 2014 following a complaint from his father, but found no link despite alleged acts of violence.
United States/Syria – The State Department announced today that Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group in Syria, has been added to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorist organizations. State notes that Jund al Aqsa “primarily operates in Idlib and Hama provinces” and was responsible for the February 2014 “massacre in the village of Maan in central Hama province, killing 40 civilians.” Jund al Aqsa was established in 2012 as a “subunit” of Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, but “split” from Nusrah and “now carries out operations independently.” Despite operating on its own, Jund al Aqsa “is still openly aligned with” Nusrah. Indeed, the jihadist organization routinely participates in battles alongside Nusrah. Two Jund al Aqsa suicide bombers helped pave the way for a Nusrah-led offensive in Idlib province in March 2015. In addition, a contingent of Jund al Aqsa leaders reportedly joined Nusrah in February. (For more information follow: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/state-department-adds-al-qaeda-front-group-in-syria-to-terror-designation-list.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28The+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29)
United States/Hamas – Hamas Political Bureau member and former interior minister Fathi Hammad called the U.S. State Department's decision to place him on the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list a "preposterous" and "deplorable" decision, which has made us "more determined and resolute to continue the Jihad." In an interview on the 17 Sep 16 Hammad addressed the American people, saying: "You will change. Islamic justice will come, and we shall implement it upon you." He further said: "There has to be a revolution by the American people against its government and against the Congress, which has legislated all these acts of injustice." America, he said, was "in the twilight of its era" and would "continue to wither." "Is it conceivable that a handful of Jews control your policies, your military, your money, and everything, and turn you into a laughing stock?" Hammad asked. He warned that the decision "could lead to global instability."