Resources updated between Monday, January 18, 2016 and Sunday, January 24, 2016
January 22, 2016
LONDON - In the dank, dark days of November 2006, as Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. officer turned foe of the Kremlin, lay dying in a London hospital, he and his associates composed a deathbed missive to President Vladimir V. Putin.
In the letter, Mr. Litvinenko said he could hear "the beating of wings of the angel of death" and blamed Mr. Putin for his plight. But, he told the Russian leader, "the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life."
The echo could be heard Thursday with the release of the final report of a lengthy public inquiry into Mr. Litvinenko's death. It was probable, said the report, by a retired judge, Sir Robert Owen, that Mr. Putin and his spy chief at the time, Nikolai Patrushev, had approved an operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko, using a highly toxic and rare isotope, polonium 210.
"Strong circumstantial evidence of Russian state responsibility," the judge wrote, had led him to the conclusion that Mr. Litvinenko was indeed poisoned when he met Andrei K. Lugovoi, a former K.G.B bodyguard, and Dmitri V. Kovtun, a Red Army deserter, for tea in the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in London on Nov. 1, 2006.
The polonium that was used to poison Mr. Litvinenko, the judge said, had probably come from a Russian reactor, and he said there were "powerful motives for organizations and individuals within the Russian state to take action" against the former K.G.B. officer.
Though Sir Robert's 328-page report, more than nine years after the poisoning, cited no hard evidence that Mr. Putin or Mr. Patrushev had been aware of the plot to kill Mr. Litvinenko or had sanctioned it, the conclusions were the most damning official links between Mr. Litvinenko's death and the highest levels of the Kremlin.
"Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me," Sir Robert said in the report, referring to the Russian security service, "I find that the F.S.B. operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev and also by President Putin."
The report was more emphatic when it came to how Mr. Litvinenko died.
"I am sure that Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun placed the polonium 210 in the teapot at the Pine Bar," the report said. "I am sure that Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun were acting on behalf of others when they poisoned Mr. Litvinenko."
Sir Robert based his conclusions on public testimony from 64 witnesses and secret evidence in closed hearings, placing an imprimatur on what had been previously dismissed in Russia as speculation.
Sir Robert on Thursday listed various possible motives for Mr. Litvinenko's assassination, including a belief among Russian security officials that the former officer had betrayed the F.S.B. and had begun to work for British intelligence after he fled to Britain in 2000. Mr. Litvinenko was also a close associate of prominent opponents of the Kremlin based in London, including Boris A. Berezovsky, a former oligarch and enemy of Mr. Putin's who died in 2013, the report said.
Mr. Putin and Mr. Litvinenko, both veterans of the K.G.B., served in its successor agency, the F.S.B., or Federal Security Service, with Mr. Putin going on to lead that intelligence agency.
"There was undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism between Mr. Litvinenko on one hand and President Putin on the other," Sir Robert wrote in his report.
As the deathbed letter, read to journalists, had forecast, the "howl of protest" arose anew on Thursday, with Mr. Litvinenko's widow, Marina, demanding the expulsion of Russian spies from Britain and targeted economic sanctions against Mr. Patrushev and Mr. Putin. Sitting beside her at a news conference, Marina Litvinenko's lawyer, Ben Emmerson, said it would be "craven" of Prime Minister David Cameron to fail to respond to what he called "nuclear terrorism" on the streets of London.
In Parliament, the home secretary, Theresa May, called Mr. Litvinenko's death "a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilized behavior," while also noting that it "does not come as a surprise" that Russia apparently had a role. She said the British assets of Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun would be frozen, although she did not say how valuable those assets were. Ms. May also said the Russian ambassador would be summoned to be told of Britain's response.
For all that, officials indicated that Britain was not likely to do anything that would plunge relations into an icy chill similar to what occurred after Mr. Litvinenko's death in 2006.
Russia on Thursday responded to the judge's report, calling the inquiry politicized and saying it was not public at all.
"We regret that the strictly criminal case has been politicized and has darkened the general atmosphere of bilateral relations," said Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Moscow, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Mr. Lugovoi, now a member of Parliament in Russia and the recipient of a medal from Mr. Putin, said the accusation that he had poisoned Mr. Litvinenko was "absurd," Interfax reported, and a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said the Litvinenko case "is not among the topics that interest us."
The British police have accused Mr. Lugovoi and Mr. Kovtun of murder, charges they deny, and Russia has refused to extradite them, saying such a move is banned by its Constitution.
The authorities in Britain have said traces of the isotope left by the two men created a so-called polonium trail for investigators to follow once scientists had identified the toxic substance used to poison Mr. Litvinenko. The trail led through airplane seats and hotel rooms, offices and restaurants, even a soccer stadium.
Sir Robert wrote in his report that he believed that the two men knew they were using a deadly poison, but he suggested that they might not have been aware "precisely what the chemical that they were handling was, or the nature of all its properties."
The inquiry, which began almost a year before the final report was released, had been initiated after dogged efforts by Ms. Litvinenko to press for a full accounting of her husband's death.
At least 17 people were killed when Islamist gunmen struck a popular beachside restaurant in the Somali capital of Mogadishu late on Thursday, Somali police said.
Al Shabaab, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida, said its members set off two car bombs at the Beach View Cafe on Mogadishu's popular Lido beach, engaging in a gun battle for hours with government troops trying to flush them out.
"The operation ended at 3 a.m. last night and at least 17 civilians were killed," police officer Osman Nur told Reuters on Friday.
Police said al Shabaab fighters set off the first car bomb at dusk. A huge second blast, which witnesses said echoed around the city center, struck about an hour later as government soldiers laid siege to the restaurant.
January 21, 2016
ISIS militants in the Libyan town of Sirte have executed at least three men and whipped another for drinking alcohol, according to a 'photo report', published by the terror group.
Published on an anonymous content sharing website, it shows the deaths of three men and the whipping of four others.
In one photo a man in a grey t-shirt, his face blurred, is led to his death - the caption says he was executed for the sin of 'banditry'.
According to the 'report', the other men were executed for converting from Islam, for cursing god and for belonging to a militia loyal to Khalifa Haftar, the UN-backed government general deeply hostile to Islamist forces - both the self-appointed government in Tripoli and ISIS.
The post is entitled 'Implementing punishment in the city of Sirte' and links to ISIS-related hashtags in Arabic.
In the seven photos that follow, each is captioned with the sin the men are accused of committing and their punishment.
A crowd of masked men stand to watch as the punishments are carried out - a mixture of executions and whipping.
One photo shows a group of four of the accused on their knees in front of a crowd of masked men, as their 'sentence' is read out - the caption declares flogging is the punishment for drinking wine.
ISIS reportedly has 3,000 fighters in Sirte and has imposed the strict rules familiar with residents in their defacto capital in Raqqa, Syria.
Beheadings and crucifixions plague the town, which has been deserted by citizens by the thousands.
It comes as analysts warn that the terror-group is rallying more and more groups under their banner, despite losing ground in its strongholds of Iraq and Syria.
'From the start, Islamic State has vowed to take its fight globally, but until recently it has been focused on managing its caliphate in Iraq and Syria,' said Michael Kugelman, of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.
With the Iraqi army re-taking some of the territory the group had taken, IS 'has re-dedicated attention to focusing on a more global approach', he said.
'The big question, after the Jakarta attacks and all of these attacks around the world in recent months that have been claimed by ISIS is - are these militants only inspired by ISIS or have they been directly managed by ISIS?' he said, using another name for the group.
Kugelman believes that IS is for now content to take credit for the attacks, using the 'brand recognition' of its name that has spread across the world, partly through social media, without necessarily dedicating resources or manpower to these groups.
'What you have here are disillusioned, alienated militants, who have been fighting with a different organisation, who are interested in identifying themselves with a more dynamic cause. And they see ISIS as a very dynamic cause - they are in the media all the time and commit spectacularly brutal attacks.'
January 20, 2016
January 19, 2016
January 18, 2016