Saturday, May 16, 2015

FBI probing whether doomed Amtrak train hit by object: The Amtrak train disaster in which 8 people were killed may have been caused by a gunshot or a rock hitting the train before it crashed last Wednesday, according to investigators. The FBI is examining what appears to be circular damage to the train’s windshield, although no projectile was found inside the locomotive. An unknown onject hitting the windshield may have panicked the driver into accelerating to double the speed limit on a curve and derailing the train as it traveled through Philadelphia.

Amtrak Train May Have Been Struck Before It Derailed, Officials Say


FBI probing whether doomed Amtrak train hit by object







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Who Is Training Dagestan’s Future Islamic Scholars?

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Dagestan is a special region of Russia in that it is an outpost of Islamic radicalism. Islamic institutions, madrasas and maktabs (Islamic elementary schools in mosques) exist in large numbers in the republic. Even though the number of Islamic educational institutions in the republic has been slashed by two-fold during the past decade, the situation has not been radically changed. Dagestan is currently home to eight Islamic higher education institutions that have 1,506 students; 39 madrasas with 4,196 students; and two cultural centers and 196 maktabs with 3,000 students. Of the 39 madrasas, only 12 are officially licensed by the authorities (President.e-dag.ru, July 1, 2014). Licensed Islamic institutions are obliged to follow the curriculum mandated by the authorities. They have to teach in Russian and ensure a 60-40 ratio of religious to secular subjects.
Why do children attend educational institutions that have no license and can be shut down any time? The simple explanation is that such institutions charge nothing and many, if not all, provide students also with lodging and meals. The Islamic institutions also exist in all districts of the republic, so their students do not have to move to the capital Makhachkala in order to receive a higher education. The republican authorities and the official Spiritual Board of Muslims of Dagestan are concerned about the fact that “only nine out of all the existing Islamic institutions in Dagestan are licensed. None of the Islamic higher education institutions is certified by the government or has accreditation with the state” (Islamnews.ru, May 14, 2012). So, in reality, every institution, madrasa or maktab defines its own policies concerning who and what to teach.
It is not surprising, therefore, that having so many Islamic institutions in the republic, the Dagestani authorities are also concerned about the growing number of young Dagestanis who travel abroad to study at the Islamic institutions of Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Those individuals who study abroad often later join the militants in Syria and Iraq. The Dagestani authorities called their students studying the Middle East back to the republic (Interfax , October 14, 2013).
A council of alumni of foreign Islamic institutions was recently set up in the republic (Islam-today.ru, April 30). It was apparently created so that the authorities could keep an eye on the alumni of the foreign Islamic institutions, considering them in the risk group of people most likely to be affected by radical Islamic teachings, and who might possibly join the armed Islamic resistance in Dagestan. On March 23, Moscow’s envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, Sergei Melikov, said that the Islamic State organization had recruited students from institutions of higher education in the North Caucasus. To battle Islamic State recruitment, Melikov proposed focusing on the “extracurricular activities” of the students and their patriotic upbringing (Golosislama.ru, March 27). Despite denials by government officials, it has long been known that the average militant in the North Caucasus is either a student at or a graduate of a higher education institution.
Educational institutions operating under the auspices of the official Spiritual Board of Muslims of Dagestan are almost always schools associated with specific Sufi sheikhs. These include the Sheikh Muhammad-Arif University in Makhachkala, the Sheikh Sharapudin Al Kikuni School in Makhachkala, the Saifulla Kadi School in Buinaksk and the Sheikh Abdullah Efendi School in Derbent. Three Sufi tariqats (orders) exist in Dagestan—the Naqshbandi, Shadhili and Qadiriyya—and they compete with the Salafis, who also have their own educational institutions at the level of madrasas. The authorities have, at times, forcibly shut down Salafi institutions, as happened to a Salafi women’s madrasa in Khasavyurt district (Kavkazsky Uzel, October 16, 2013), which was closed down because it was financed by one of Dagestan’s leading Salafi preachers, Abu Umar Sasitlinsky.
Sufi educational institutions also face problems, however, such as the institution associated with the famous Sufi sheikh, Said Chirkeisky, in the village of Chirkei, which was recently stripped of its government license. Said Chirkeisky was killed by a female suicide bomber back in August 2012 (Regnum , April 27). The government also ordered the closure of the Sheikh Jamalutdin Kazikumukhsky madrasa.
Still, Dagestan remains the only region in Russia where Salafis operate openly. The Salafis were allowed to function in the republic in order to neutralize their influence on young people. However, Dagestani youth took the opportunity and started to join the Salafis and the radicals in large numbers. The Salafis are divided into two groups, one which is fighting the authorities and the other which refuses to take up arms to defend its views. As of today, there are no reliable estimates of the ratio of peaceful Salafis to violent Salafis, but the ratio is probably 1,000 to 1, i.e. one Salafi fighter per 1,000 peaceful Salafis. However, even the peaceful Salafis are closer to the violent Salafis than they are to the Sufis or to the government.
Even though the Salafis operate legally in Dagestan, they still have no freedom of association or right to build their own mosques. Mosques that are under Salafi control are constantly watched by the police.
Moscow does not want so many Islamic educational institutions in the country and would thus like to have just two Islamic institutions in the North Caucasus while simultaneously limiting travel by students abroad to obtain an Islamic education. The government’s moves in Dagestan indicate that Moscow is trying to solve the problem of armed resistance in the North Caucasus by replicating the experience of the Soviet era, when there was one Islamic institution in the entire country and its curriculum was written in the Kremlin. However, returning to the Soviet system would also bring back the problems of the past that radicalized Muslims, including those in areas that were considered to be Sufi dominated.
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Chechen Involvement in Middle East Fighting a Growing Concern for Russian and European Governments

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After each death of a Chechen in Syria or Iraq, the involvement of Chechens in Middle Eastern conflicts becomes a hot topic of discussion in the Russian media. The recent death of a high-profile Chechens from the Northern Front of the Islamic State (IS) organization, Ibrahim Shishani, also prompted a spike in news reports (TASS, May 2). Quoting the Iranian TV channel Press-TV, Russia’s TASS state news agency said the slain militant was responsible for organizing the April attack on one of the largest oil refineries in Iraq, located in the city of Baiji, some 180 kilometers away from Baghdad. Even though war in Syria has demonstrated that Iranian and Kurdish news sources are unreliable, Russian news agencies still made extensive use of the Iranian coverage. Nearly all of Russia’s news agencies republished the story about the death of the high-profile Chechen IS commander (Google.fr, accessed May 8).
The Russian media, however, did not supply any details of the killing apart from what Iranian TV reported. Even worse, some media outlets rushed to announce the death of another Chechen commander, Umar Shishani (Tarkhan Batirashvili), confusing him with Ibrahim Shishani. Russian media apparently have no concrete knowledge of the true situation on the ground in the Middle East (Kavkazsky UzelLenta.ru, others, May 2).
The two Chechens have nothing in common apart from the same nickname “Shishani,” which means “Chechen” in Arabic. This was the ninth announcement of the death of Umar Shishani in recent months. Ibrahim Shishani was only one of many middle-level militant commanders, and endowing him with a high status was an attempt to increase the significance of the operation by the Shiites, which was essentially a propaganda move. Ibrahim Shishani himself appeared in the news only once, when rebels under the command of Umar Shishani took over Mining Military Airport, in Syria, in August 2013, and he commented on the battle.
This latest episode illustrates how poorly Russia is informed about the involvement of Russian citizens in the Middle Eastern conflicts. For example, at the end of April 2015, Russian media announced that law enforcement agencies had identified seven residents of Chechnya who went to Syria during the period of 2014–2015. Among the seven suspects were 22-year-old Khasan Sangariev and 26-year-old Said-Khamzat Magomadov, both residents of the Chechen town of Urus-Martan. The others were 25-year-old Khadi Aslakhanov and 35-year-old Akhmed Chataev, both residents of Vedeno district; 21-year-old Askhab Alkhazov and 25-year-old Khusein Abubakarov, both residents of Kurchaloi, and Khasan Aidamirov, a 23-year-old resident of Naur district (Ekhokavkaza.com, April 26).
Overall, according to the Kavkazsky Uzel website, in the period from January 1, 2014, to April 25, 2015, the authorities launched at least 62 criminal investigations against residents of the North Caucasus Federal District on charges of participation in the Middle Eastern war. The government attempted to prosecute people who went to fight in Syria and Iraq as well as those who returned from the Middle East to the North Caucasus (Kavkazsky Uzel, April 26). Residents of Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Stavropol region were among the prosecuted individuals, meaning that the Russian authorities need to identify the other 3,000–4,000 North Caucasians who are reportedly fighting in the Middle East. Since the government was able to determine only 62 names of suspects over the past year and a half, it is hard to imagine how long it will take the security services to reveal all names of the Russian citizens who are fighting in the ranks of Islamic State.
The only way the Russian authorities can discover the real names of other fighters is through the confessions of those who have returned from Syria. Militants return from Syria via several ways. One is when parents manage to entice their son or daughter back to Russia, using force, deceit or persuasion. The returnees immediately end up in the hands of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and face trial under any circumstances (Rus.azattyq.org, May 6). The second way is when a militant who is fighting in Syria convinces his commander that he needs hospitalization in Turkey or deceives his commander by pretending he has to pick up his fiancé in Turkey but actually returns to Russia. Such people are not necessarily seeking to return home immediately, but rather are trying to wait it out abroad to make sure the Russian authorities forget about them. A third category is made up of those who decide to fight in the North Caucasus rather than in the Middle East, but there are only a handful of these.
The authorities in nearly all large European countries literally hunt for any Chechen who went to Turkey, even those who went there on holiday. Since the second half of 2014, all European countries have been tracking every Chechen who visits either Russia or Turkey and alert the country where the Chechen is registered as a refugee (Currenttime.mobi, January 21). Dozens of Chechens have returned to Europe from the Middle East in hopes that the authorities had not noticed their absence.
Thus, the involvement of Chechens in the Middle East remains a problem for all security services. However, the Russian special services are in an especially dire situation. The return of IS’s North Caucasian militants from the Middle East to Russia may transform the Caucasus Emirate (indigenous to the North Caucasus) into the Islamic State. In any case, those who fought in the Middle East under the flags of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State may continue to fight in the North Caucasus, thereby further increasing the tensions in the region.
Read the whole story

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Belarus’s Rapprochement With the West and the Zero-Sum Fallacy

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On May 7, Belarus’s national ice hockey team beat the United States for the first time, netting a 5–2 win at the world championship in Prague (BELTA, May 8). Hardly any piece of news pleased Belarusians more than this one. Yet, one may also recall that Belarus’s hockey team is trained by Dave Lewis, the former Detroit Red Wings coach (BELTA, December 12, 2014). So a success in sports appears to be linked to another story: Belarus’s slow but steady rapprochement with the West.
Indeed, every week brings new developments along this line. On May 4, in Minsk, Gernot Erler, the coordinator of the German Government on inter-societal cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the countries of the Eastern Partnership, publically apologized to Belarusians for the crimes committed by the Nazis. This was the first ever official apology of a German official to Belarus (Naviny.by, May 4). Subsequently Erler had a meeting with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei. Also, on May 4, both Makei and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Austria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz. Among other things, Lukashenka expressed hope that Austria and the West at large “take a closer look at Belarus, draw appropriate conclusions and undertake some steps in the right direction” (Tut.by, May 4). In his talk with Kurz, Makei observed that the Belarusian officials banned from travel to the European Union significantly outnumber Syrian officials under travel sanctions, which is absurd. “We are not an ideal country,” remarked Makei, “and are ready to learn from the more advanced ones, but we believe this should be done as part of an open, direct and sincere dialogue” (Tut.by, May 4).
Earlier, on April 30, Scott Rauland, Washington’s top diplomat to Belarus, donated several US artifacts from World War II to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, in Minsk (Minsk.usembassy.gov, April 30). Also, on May 7, a 47-member orchestra of the United States Air Force in Europe participated in a concert at the Brest Fortress, which was the first target of the Nazi German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 (Tut.by, May 8). And on May 9, the same orchestra took part in the military parade in Minsk.
And yet, with few exceptions, Belarus’s rapprochement with the West continues to be portrayed from a zero-sum game perspective, whereby undivided geopolitical loyalty is assumed as some ideal state of affairs and any departures from it—i.e., “maneuvering” between the centers of power—are looked at with suspicion. Paradoxically, not maintaining equal distance between East and West is also seen as suspect. In Russia, this viewpoint is particularly tenacious. For example, Regnum assaulted Lukashenka for not appreciating the intrinsic value of any ideological concept (in this case the “Russian world”). What is important for Lukashenka, according to his Regnum critic, is to be able to extract a practical benefit from ideology (Regnum, May 1). Another patriotic Russian media outlet scolded Lukashenka for his loyalty to the new government in Kyiv, his support for the territorial integrity of Georgia, for sending friendly signals to the United States, and even for the fact that “many in the upper echelons of power [in Minsk] are wistfully glancing at the West” (Russkaya Planeta, May 4).
However, similar logic is employed by many in the West as well. Thus, a Polish news portal lambasted Lukashenka for showing mercenary motives in his flirting with Brussels (Wprost.pl, May 5). And Andrew Wilson and Yaraslau Kryvoi in a policy memo of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) observe that although the Belarusian authorities have become skilled at the balancing game, “maintaining equidistance between two opposing parties” is out of the question because “no other potential partner can match the support that Russia offers.” Yet, despite defending some “sacred cows” of the failed EU’s approach to Belarus (like the zero-sum-game perspective and a belief that Belarusians are generally ill-informed), the ECFR memo is a breakthrough of sorts. It acknowledges that many Belarusians genuinely support Lukashenka; that Belarusians en masse do not aspire to a swift shift toward a market economy, democracy or the rule of law; that regime change in Belarus would not necessarily make Belarus pro-Western; that Belarusian identity is not too strong; and that, consequently, Belarus could easily become part of Russia when Lukashenka is gone. Therefore, conclude the authors of the ECFR memo, it is important to “cooperate at every level with those who are currently in charge of Belarus” (ECFR, May 5). What is surprising is not that such conclusions have been drawn but that it has taken so many years to arrive at them.
Nevertheless, not everybody is enamored with the zero-sum-game approach when it comes to dealing with Belarus. In her interview to the Hungarian newspaper Magyar Hirlap, Elena Kupchina, Belarus’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, acknowledged that her country wants to become a European nation and yet avoid bloodshed and turmoil. Having to explicitly choose between the West and the East, Kupchina believes, is actually a false choice (Tut.by , May 5).
Just days earlier, in an interview for Tut.by, given in Minsk, Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Kennan Institute, was asked whether he would endorse the current foreign policy course of the Belarusian authorities if he were their consultant. “By and large yes,” said Rojansky, “but with one exception… Belarus ought to become a more predictable and reliable partner for both Russia and the West.” Ukraine failed to do so. But Belarus “should determine that narrow but still existing space in which both Moscow and the West will be satisfied with its conduct” (Tut.by, April 30). Even in Moscow, one influential analyst of a non-liberal persuasion claimed that under the current situation, the Kremlin’s discord with Lukashenka is a nuisance unworthy of attention. And as long as Belarus is a separate country, Lukashenka is entitled to defend its interests (Nakanune.ru, May 6).
Such opinions, as well as slow but positive changes in thinking about Belarus, are encouraging. Situated between Russia and the EU, Belarus has no alternative to maintaining good relations with both while defending its national interests the best it can.
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Posthumous Nemtsov Report Declares ‘Putin’s War’

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On May 12, friends and supporters of the murdered opposition figure Boris Nemtsov published a report based on his work to uncover Russian military involvement in the war in Ukraine. The Nemtsov report, “Putin. Voina” (Putin. War), offers 64 pages and eleven chapters assessing the conflict, with an initial print run of 2,000. It does not provide convincing evidence to support the allegation that Nemtsov was murdered due to working on this issue. However, its main controversy lies in the fact that it is the first Russian-language report to assess Russian military and security involvement in Ukraine; and it lays the blame firmly on President Vladimir Putin (Putin-itogi.ru, May 12).
Members of the Republican Party of Russia–People’s Freedom Party (RPR-Parnas) want the report and Nemtsov’s murder firmly linked. The authors of the report claim that it offers evidence of the direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict of Russian military personnel. Ilya Yashin, a member of the bureau of the RPR-Parnas federal political council, said “We insist that investigators should carefully check out the version that Nemtsov was killed because of the work on this report” (Interfax, May 12).
According to members of the RPR-Parnas party, the website hosting the Nemtsov report was the target of hacking activity soon after it became public. “The site on which the report has been placed has been the target of a powerful DDoS [distributed denial of service] attack. We are resolving the issue and will soon restore access,” Ilya Yashin commented on Twitter. A presentation on the content of the report was provided on May 12 by Yashin and party co-chairman Mikhail Kasyanov (Interfax, May 12).
“Putin. Voina” makes clear that regular Russian military personnel were not only involved in destabilizing southeastern Ukraine, but actively engaged in military operations, and especially at critical points. Consequently, the Nemtsov report alleges that 150 Russian soldiers died in August 2014 during the battle of Ilovaysk and 70 were killed in fighting in Debaltseve in January–February 2015. Ilya Yashin commented on these findings by noting, “All major military successes by the separatists were ensured by Russian army units.” Although knowledge of Russian military involvement in Ukraine has been widespread in recent months, the Kremlin continues to deny any official sanctioning of these events. However, as Yashin explained, major Russian military involvement in southeastern Ukraine came in two phases. The first, in August 2014 secured the separatist counter-offensive and created the conditions that led to Minsk One. Then, in January–February 2015, Russian units spearheaded the capture of Debaltseve, which overlapped the Minsk Two process. Yashin asserted, “A similar situation evolved in January–February 2015, when certain successes by the Ukrainian army were essentially blocked and stopped by massive interference by Russian army units,” adding, “Apart from the Russian military, armed mercenaries, whom Russian propaganda presents as volunteers, are actively involved in east Ukraine” (Dozhd TV, May 12).
“Putin. Voina” asserts a number of key findings linked to Russian military operations in Donbas (eastern Ukrainian region encompassing Donetsk and Luhansk provinces), covering soldiers’ fatalities as well as the economic cost in terms of supporting the operations and separatists. The report also touches on the political damage to the regime in Moscow. It finds that August 2014 and January–February 2015 were vital stages of the Russian campaign, with the latter resulting in the deaths of 70 military servicemen, including 17 members of the elite airborne forces. The Russian defense ministry has allegedly promised to pay compensation for death and injury, but has not fulfilled such obligations. Relatives have received money through unofficial channels and allegedly signed gag clauses in return (RBKPutin Voina, May 12).
The report also alleges that in the first ten months of the conflict, Moscow spent 53 billion rubles (over $1 billion) to support “volunteers” and local rebel fighters as well as provide weapons and hardware. Rank-and-file mercenaries fighting in Donbas were paid up to 90,000 rubles ($1,774 dollars), while officers are paid more. Moreover, the Russian budget spent around 80 billion rubles ($1.5 billion dollars) on refugees from Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The sanctions and reciprocal measures undertaken by Moscow resulted in 5.5-percent rise in food prices. Yashin described the situation in Donbas as a “humanitarian disaster,” saying that neither Russian nor Ukrainian authorities “are capable of ensuring basic law and order” in these areas (RBKPutin Voina, May 12).
While many aspects of these findings come as no surprise, Yashin believes the real damage to Russia lies in the political sphere. “Russia has incurred not only economic losses as a result of this war. Russia suffered enormous political damage as a result of the geopolitical gamble unleashed by Putin in eastern Ukraine. The war with Ukraine is an undeclared war. It is a vile cynical war, it is a crime against all of the Russian people. We are paying for it with the lives of our fellow citizens. We are paying for it with an economic crisis and political isolation,” he said. “There are no people in the world closer to us than Ukrainians. Without exaggeration, Ukrainians are our brothers. Putin will go down in Russian history as the president who made Russians and Ukrainians foes,” he added. In his view, once Putin eventually leaves office Russians and Ukrainians “will have to normalize relations.” “The leaders of our country are responsible for the crimes, for the gamble whose victims include Ukrainian citizens as well as our Russian fellow citizens,” he said, adding: “The truth is that Putin means crisis and war. Only by joint effort we will be able to stop him” (Dozhd TV, May 12).
The value of the report lies in its open recognition of the participation in the conflict by regular Russian military units. It also fails to describe anything resembling “hybrid warfare” and instead presents an all too familiar insight into forming, establishing and supporting rebel forces and, when needed, directly intervening to use regular combined-arms operations in Donbas. Of course, given the opposition input into the report, it is vulnerable to being challenged on the grounds of its political bias. Questions also persist concerning the sources the report draws upon, for example, the lack of reference to the work of the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers. As the train-and-equip program for rebels in Donbas shows no sign of abating, it remains to be seen as to whether the recent round of US and German diplomacy will forestall a third critical Russia-led offensive in Donbas.
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Counter-Terrorism Operations Take Place in Dagestan Virtually Non-Stop

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Dagestan is the only part of the North Caucasus today that is experiencing ceaseless counter-terrorism operations (KTO). The security services announce KTOs in various areas of the republic, and these sometimes continue for months. During an active KTO regime, the authorities restrict the movements of citizens within a village, city, district or even several districts at the same time, as recently happened in the Novolaksky, Khasavyurt and Kizilyurt districts, which border Chechnya and Dagestan. Two cities and three districts of Dagestan were under a KTO regime from March 16 to May 12 (Chernovik.net, May 12).
Prior to that, the authorities introduced a KTO regime in Kizilyurt district on February 25 that ended on March 2. After that, a new KTO was introduced, which lasted for nearly two consecutive months (Regnum, March 2). During the first KTO in Kizilyurt district in February, several rebels were killed, including a local insurgent leader, Ali Magomeddebirov. During the second KTO, however, the security services delivered no results. Local Dagestanis think that most often KTOs are designed not to find militants, but to demonstrate that the government is trying to do so. Most of the time, KTOs are not justified. The authorities sustain a special KTO regime until they somehow find a rebel or supposedly prevent an attack and report the success of the KTO. The killing of Khasmagomed Charinov, a rebel leader in Khasavyurt district, was declared a major success for of the security services (Vdagestan.com, April 27).
On May 2, police in the city of Kizilyurt, on Malaguseinov Street, tried to arrest a suspect who blew himself up with an improvised explosive device (IED). No one else was hurt in the explosion. The dead man was identified as 31-year-old Abdulkhalikov Shamil Isaevich from the village of Tsebari, in Dagestan’s Tsuntinsky district. Abdulkhalikov was on the wanted list for crimes specified in articles 105, 208, 222 and 317 of the Russian Criminal Code. While the KTO in Kizilyurt district was lifted that same day, police accidentally came across the suspect, who did not have a prominent status in the insurgency. Even the rebels themselves could not say who exactly he was.
KTOs in Makhachkala normally do not last longer than one day. A KTO in the Dagestani capital is introduced in a narrowly defined area where a rebel or group of rebels is located. After the operation is completed, the special regime is promptly lifted. On May 7, the KTO was introduced in part of Makhachkala at 6:00 a.m. and lifted at 11:00 p.m. the same day, after the operation was completed. Three rebels were killed in the operation: they were identified as Zaur Begov, Abumuslim Gasanov and Mirzabek Idrisov (Kavkazsky Uzel, May 7). Begov and Idrisov were on the Russian federal wanted list for attacks on Dagestani law enforcement personnel. It is unclear why Zaur Begov decided to go back home to his wife along with the two other rebels, knowing that he was on the federal wanted list and that the local police were on the lookout for him, closely monitoring members of the suspect’s family.
But while KTOs in Makhachkala are short and specific, they are also quite frequent. KTOs are introduced in the republic’s capital practically every week and sometimes several times a week. The nickname for Dagestan’s rebels—“forest brothers”—is not accurate since they mainly operate in the cities and the villages of the republic. Therefore, special operations in the republic rarely take place in the forested and mountainous areas of Dagestan.
Those belonging to the new generation of rebels began their insurgent activity in 2010 or later. Most of them have no experience in underground activities and joined the insurgency for ideological reasons rather than because the government was persecuting them. This generation is associated with a romantic notion of an ideal Islamic society.
From February to May 2015, KTOs have been implemented in Dagestan’s Kizilyurt, Khasavyurt and Novolak districts. KTOs were also implemented in Tsumada district in March, and in the Untsukul, Buinaksk and Karabudakhkent districts in April. KTOs are implemented in the capital Makhachkala on a weekly basis.
Thus, KTOs have become part of the daily lives of Dagestan’s residents, who have stopped regarding this as something out of the ordinary. This situation is dangerous because radical views may spread among young people, as increasingly more individuals are involved in this struggle, at least as onlookers. The number of violent incidents in Dagestan is high, and the republic is increasingly moving toward Islamic radicalism.
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CHINA : New intelligence deal with Hanoi

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The Evil within—The truth we dare not see about Saudi Arabia

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The Evil within: The truth we dare not see about Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen An air strike hits a military site controlled by the Houthi group in Yemen’s capital Sanaa May 12, 2015. (Reuters / Khaled Abdullah) On the 70th anniversary of the fall of Nazi Germany, fascism is far from dead. As Yemen […]

Obama Hammers ISIS Leadership–Baghdadi May Be Dead, #2 Abu Alaa al-Afri Is Dead 

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[SEE:  Saudis Report Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “Critically Wounded” In Latest US Airstrike–How Is It Only They Know?] ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hit by spinal injury, says reports Posted by: Jagriti Kumari Refuting earlier report of death of Islamic State (ISIS) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a new media report has claimed that he suffered spinal injury.  […]

Iran Attacks Another Vessel, Claiming Debt Collection

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Tanker engaged by Iranian vessels liable for $300mn in damages to oil rig – Tehran Iranian naval ships (Reuters/Jamejamonline/Ebrahim Norouzi) A Singapore-flagged tanker which, owner claims, came under Iranian navy fire in the international waters off the UAE this week, is wanted over the unsettled $300mn debt in damages it caused to an oil rig […]

ARMOR: The Polish-Ukrainian Consortium

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CHINA: The Ultimate Nightmare

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Obama greets new Israeli govt with push for Palestinian state

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Shortly after Binyamin Netanyahu’s new government was confirmed Thursday night, President Barack Obama said Israel's long-term security would be best served by reaching an agreement to live alongside a recognized Palestinian state. "I continue to believe a two-state solution is absolutely vital for not only peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but for the long-term security of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state," Obama told a news conference at Camp David where he was hosting a Gulf leaders’ conference. "I know that a government has been formed that contains some folks who don't necessarily believe in that premise, but that continues to be my premise," he said. "That prospect seems distant now, but I think it's always important for us to keep in mind what's right and what's possible."
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Russia's Moskva missile cruiser passes Black Sea straits for joint drills with China

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The Black Sea Fleet's Moskva guided missile cruiser has started passing through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits for joint drills with the Chinese navy in the Mediterranean Sea, Russian Navy spokesman Capitan First Rank Igor Dygalo said on Friday.

Afghan aviation wings clipped under US

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The US has poured more than $500 million into the Afghan civil aviation since 2002 but the sector is unable to operate independently, an American audit has found.

Latvia Installs NATO Air Defense Radar System

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A long-range air surveillance radar has been installed in northwestern Latvia as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) air defense system, local media reported Friday.

U.S. Marines train with Jordanian, British forces

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United States Marines with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, kicked off Exercise Eager Lion 15 with three days of training from May 5-7 at Al Quweyrah, Jordan.

Strategy to Defeat ISIL is Working, Military Official Says

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The coalition and Iraqi security forces strategy to defeat and dismantle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist group is clear and on track, the chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today.

US Coast Guard Lacks Funds to Buy Needed Ships, Planes

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The US Coast Guard's plans to buy more ships and aircraft outstrip the available funds that are needed to purchase them, according to new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
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ISIL Seizes Iraqi City of Ramadi 110 Km From Baghdad

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Islamic State militants have seized the government compound in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, raising their black and white flag in the city center on Friday afternoon, AFP reports, citing government officials.

Moscow Says No Objective Reasons for Keeping US Nuclear Arms in Europe

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Russia's envoy to NATO, Alexander Grushko said that there are not objective reasons for the United States to keep tactical nuclear arms in Europe.

Russia to Strengthen Crimea's Defense Amid NATO Expansion Plans – Envoy

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Everything that we do in Crimea is fully in line with Russia's obligations under international treaties, according to Russia's envoy to NATO.

Islamic State Raises Flag Over Ramadi

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Islamic State militants took over the local government compound in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Friday, raising their black flag in the Anbar province capital, after months of protracted conflict.

FBI probing whether doomed Amtrak train hit by object

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The Amtrak train disaster in which 8 people were killed may have been caused by a gunshot or a rock hitting the train before it crashed last Wednesday, according to investigators. The FBI is examining what appears to be circular damage to the train’s windshield, although no projectile was found inside the locomotive. An unknown onject hitting the windshield may have panicked the driver into accelerating to double the speed limit on a curve and derailing the train as it traveled through Philadelphia. An assistant conductor aboard the train told investigators that she heard the Amtrak engineer talking over the radio with an engineer from a regional railroad just before the crash. He said his train had been hit by a rock or some other projectile in the same area.
Not long before the derailment, two passengers on a southbound Amtrak told The Philadelphia Inquirer that something shattered a window on their train as it passed through this area. They said Amtrak police boarded the train at 30th Street station in Philadelphia to document the incident.

Белковский: «Керри прибыл в Сочи, чтобы успокоить Путина и погладить его по голове» - Телеканал ДОЖДЬ (подписка)

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Телеканал ДОЖДЬ (подписка)



Белковский: «Керри прибыл в Сочи, чтобы успокоить Путина и погладить его по голове»
Телеканал ДОЖДЬ (подписка)
Станислав, как вы оцениваете доклад по материалам Немцова, посвященный участию российских войск в Украине, как вы думаете, дойдет ли он до Путина и произведет ли какое-то впечатление на общество? Белковский: На мой взгляд, доклад объемом 66 страниц, то есть достаточно ...
Белковский: Керри приехал «погладить Путина по голове»Young Urkaine

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Кадыров проинспектировал строительство крупнейшей мечети мира - ГОСНОВОСТИ

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Кадыров проинспектировал строительство крупнейшей мечети мира
ГОСНОВОСТИ
В городе Шали Чеченской Республики идет строительство мечети вместимостью свыше 20 тысяч человек. После открытия она станет одной из крупнейших в мире. Об этом на своей странице в Инстаграм написал Глава Чеченской Республики Рамзан Кадыров. «В городе Шали ...
Р. Кадыров: Самый красивый и современный Дворец культуры откроется в ШалиMangazia

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Top Detective Removed From Nemtsov Case - RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

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RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty



Top Detective Removed From Nemtsov Case
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
The Kremlin-backed head Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, defended Dadayev in a statement posted on Instagram on March 8, calling him a "true patriot" and a deeply pious Muslim who was shocked by the cartoons. Lawyers, allies of Nemtsov, and relatives of ...

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Яшин: Уход Краснова из дела Немцова фактически свидетельствует, что главным силовиком в России стал Кадыров - GORDONUA.COM

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GORDONUA.COM



Яшин: Уход Краснова из дела Немцова фактически свидетельствует, что главным силовиком в России стал Кадыров
GORDONUA.COM
Уход Краснова из дела Немцова фактически свидетельствует, что главным силовиком в стране стал Рамзан Кадыров. Политический вес СК, ФСБ и МВД вместе взятых уступает влиянию одного Кадырова. Большего унижения для федеральных силовиков придумать невозможно", ...
Большего унижения для силовиков придумать невозможноРадиостанция ЭХО МОСКВЫ
В деле об убийстве Немцова поменялся следовательУКРАИНСКАЯ ПРАВДА
Дело об убийстве Немцова передали новому следователю DELFI.ee

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 news articles »

Boris Nemtsov's last act of courage - Washington Post

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Times of India



Boris Nemtsov's last act of courage
Washington Post
... have been killed in Ukraine; that Russian authorities marshaled mercenaries by taking part in the recruitment, arming and financing; that the war has cost Russia more than $1 billion; and that it has been directed from the Kremlin by Vladislav ...

Extended excerpts of Nemtsov's report on Russia's war against UkraineKyiv Post

Vladimir Putin has up to 10000 troops in Ukraine, Russian opposition report claimsSydney Morning Herald

Russia: Key Allegations Of Nemtsov War ReportValueWalk
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

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The Report "Putin. War". Key Theses - Ukraine Today

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Ukraine Today



The Report "Putin. War". Key Theses
Ukraine Today
In fact, the DPR and LPR are under external control of Moscow, and the key decisions in these countries depend on Russian officials and political strategists. [Presidential advisor] Vladislav Surkov plays a key role in the process of external control ...

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Последний мужественный поступок Бориса Немцова - inoСМИ.Ru

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inoСМИ.Ru



Последний мужественный поступок Бориса Немцова
inoСМИ.Ru
... российских солдат, что российские власти засылали наемников, принимая участие в их вербовке, вооружении и финансировании, что война обошлась России более чем в один миллиард долларов, что управляет ею из Кремля один из главных помощников ПутинаВладислав Сурков.
Соратники представили доклад Немцова о российских военных на ДонбассеForbes Россия
Посмертный доклад Немцова о Крыме и Донбассе нового не открыл, но вызвал резонансДеловой Петербург
О чем мы узнали из доклада Немцова «Путин. Война»Snob.ru
365info.kz -Вечерний Харьков -Киевская Правда
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В Донбассе игнорируют Суркова: ДНР и ЛНР больше не будут в правовом поле Украины - Накануне.RU

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Обозреватель



В Донбассе игнорируют Суркова: ДНР и ЛНР больше не будут в правовом поле Украины
Накануне.RU
Донбасские политические деятели Денис Пушилин и Влад Дайнего заявили о возможности интеграции республик в правовое поле Украины. Однако, в Донецке считают, что это "игрыСуркова", а Украины в Донбассе в любом случае больше не будет. Об этом в Фейсбуке написал ...
Террористы"ДНР" признались, что Пушилин и Дейнего - марионетки ПутинаОбозреватель
Уже и в «ДНР» признали, что Пушилин – «клоун в перьях» и марионетка КремляОбком

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Что стало с «майскими указами» Путина - Snob.ru

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Snob.ru



Что стало с «майскими указами» Путина
Snob.ru
Сразу после этого Владислав Сурков подал в отставку с поста вице-премьера и вскоре был назначен помощником главы государства. Отставка Суркова, по словам пресс-секретаря президента Дмитрия Пескова, была связана с «тематикой первоочередных задач по реализации майских ...

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Президент России Владимир Путин проводит встречу с главой Абхазии Раулем Хаджимбой - Российский Диалог

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Российский Диалог



Президент России Владимир Путин проводит встречу с главой Абхазии Раулем Хаджимбой
Российский Диалог
Ранее Владислав Сурков подтвердил обязательства России в отношении Абхазии, взятые после подписания с этой республикой Договора о союзничестве и стратегическом партнерстве (24 ноября 2014 года). "На текущий год предполагалась финансовая поддержка Абхазии в размере ...

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EU and Nato to step up cooperation to counter Russian 'hybrid warfare' - International Business Times UK

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International Business Times UK



EU and Nato to step up cooperation to counter Russian 'hybrid warfare'
International Business Times UK
Nato and the EU are to increase cooperation to counter Russia's "hybrid warfare", the combination of concealed military force, propaganda and cyber warfare the Kremlin has allegedly used against Ukraine. Observers believe that the West was caught on ...

Putin's lapdog? Zuckerberg questioned over quisling claims - The Register

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The Register



Putin's lapdog? Zuckerberg questioned over quisling claims
The Register
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has publicly denied that he is Vladimir Putin's stooge, after Ukrainian Facebookers complained about posts and accounts being deleted, even though they didn't break the site's rules (according to them, at least).

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Fearing Russian expansion, Baltic nations step up military exercises 

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TAPA, Estonia — A year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula because he said he feared NATO’s expansion. This week, U.S. tanks were cutting up the Estonian countryside just 65 miles from the Russian border in response to local fears about Russia’s expansionism. Read full article >>







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Russian Rocket Carrying Mexican Satellite Is Said to Crash in Siberia 

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The Proton-M rocket, which was ferrying a telecommunications satellite, crashed minutes after launch on Saturday, Russian news agencies reported.

Train May Have Been Hit By Object Before Crash

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The FBI is investigating suggestions that the train which derailed killing eight people was struck by something before the crash.

Eye Opener: The FBI gets involved in the Amtrak crash investigation

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Your world in 90 seconds

Reporter’s Notebook: Ex-CIA Official Talks Bin Laden, Drones, Intel 

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Former Deputy CIA director Michael Morell was a willing witness to some of the greatest events in my generation, and an unwilling participant in others. He stood next to President Bush on September 11, 2001; he was beside CIA Director Leon Panetta during the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden; and at times he was at the center of the political firestorm surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attack. Morrell spent more than 30 years with the CIA – including stints as its acting director – so the single hour I had to interview him seemed like a fraction of the time needed to cover the events Morrell no doubt has more unique insight into than (literally) almost any other person in the world. But it didn’t take long to find what reporters call “the lede” in the interview.  “Syria is the hardest [foreign policy] matter I've ever seen in 33 years in government.  Why?  There’s not just one war going on in Syria, there’s actually multiple wars going in in Syria,” said Morell. He explained that Bashar al-Assad’s secular government is fighting Syrian rebels as well as Islamic extremists, including al Qaeda and the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS or ISIS).  And most of the groups opposing Assad are also fighting each other.  For the U.S., there’s no clear side to ally with, and no foreseeable outcome that fits neatly with its foreign policy goals. And, as Morell explains in his new book, the U.S. played an unwitting hand in the creation of the militant group wreaking the most havoc in the region.  “ISIS began with the fall of Iraq and when U.S. troops left – they got stronger,” he said. Triumphs and regrets Morell’s role in then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 speech to the United Nations – now infamous because Powell presented bad intelligence about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction – is among Morell’s chief regrets. He attempts to correct many wrongs in his book, including that central piece of the Iraq story. Morell said Powell once told him, “This Iraq/WMD thing is going to be on my tombstone.” Morell owns up to the bad intelligence in his book, writing, “I would like to use this opportunity to publically apologize to Secretary Powell.” The killing of Osama Bin Laden remains one of the greatest successes in the mind of the former Deputy Director. “It was one of the most remarkable things the CIA ever accomplished” he said. When President Obama asked Morell to give an assessment of the probability of Osama Bin Laden being at the compound before the raid – Morell put it at 60 percent.  In fact, he told the president that the case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been better than the case for Bin Laden being at the compound. Morell  also discounted the recent Seymour Hersh article that offers a very different version of the events surrounding the raid than the account presented by the U.S. government. “It was all rubbish,” Morell said. “I’m speculating that the Pakistanis are peddling this to save face.” Drones are effective; Nightmare scenario While fully admitting that U.S. drone strikes have provided terrorists a valuable tool for recruitment, he stands behind the program fully. “[Drones] are the most effective weapon against attacks,” he said. “The propaganda that drones afflict collateral damage is not true. It is spread by people who want the drone program to go away.” Despite his confidence in the drones are helping prevent attacks, the former CIA official said another successful attack on the U.S. is still the thing that sometimes keeps him up at night. “It’s a terror group with weapons of mass destruction,” he said.  “A terror group with a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon.”


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Official: Cyber Crime Must Be Seen as Foreign Policy Priority

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The U.S. State Department's point person on computer security issues says progress is being made in fighting cyber crime worldwide but that the international community is only starting to wake up to the issue's importance. The recent hacker attack targeting Sony Pictures, which North Korea was allegedly behind, and another targeting email systems belonging to the State Department and White House, allegedly the work of Russian hackers,  graphically illustrated the threat of cyber crime. According to Christopher Painter, the State Department's coordinator for cyber issues, the international community has been playing catch-up. "While the Internet has been growing and evolving for a few decades now, the international community has only more recently begun to fully grasp cyber issues as a foreign policy priority," he told a Senate subcommittee Thursday. The Obama administration put forward its strategy for keeping cyberspace secure in 2011 with the release of  the International Strategy for Cyberspace. That strategy document says the U.S. will "oppose those who would seek to disrupt networks and systems" and respond to cyber attacks as it would to any other threat to the country. It also stresses the need for international cooperation. The State Department's Painter said Thursday that "significant progress” had been made in achieving the International Strategy for Cyberspace's goals. He noted, among other things, that 14 additional countries have joined the Budapest Convention — an international treaty signed in 2001 that seeks to address cyber crime by harmonizing national laws and increasing cooperation among nations. The private sector is also still playing catch-up in trying to deal with the cyber crime threat.   According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit group, there were 783 data breaches in the United States last year — a 27 percent increase over 2013. Victims included giant retailers Target and Home Depot. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group, has estimated that cybercrime costs the U.S. economy $100 billion annually. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who now leads a financial industry trade association, told another congressional panel this week that 80 percent of companies breached in 2014 "did not know they were breached until somebody else told them,” and that they often found out only "months later."

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Projectile May Have Hit Train That Derailed, Agency Says

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The Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday in Philadelphia may have been hit by some kind of projectile, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday. Board member Robert Sumwalt said the FBI has been asked to look into the possibility in relation to "damage on the left lower portion of the Amtrak windshield." The NTSB is acting on a report from an assistant conductor who said she heard the Amtrak train engineer, Brandon Bostian, talking by radio to the engineer of a regional train. The regional train engineer said his train had "been hit by a rock or shot at." The assistant conductor said she thought she heard Bostian say the Amtrak train had also been hit. But when questioned by authorities for the first time Friday, Bostian said he had no memory of anything that happened in the moments leading up to the train derailment, which killed eight people and injured more than 200 others. Earlier, Bostian's lawyer said the 32-year-old engineer had suffered a concussion in the accident and could not remember what had happened just before it occurred. The possibility of a projectile does not explain why the train was traveling at more than twice the posted speed limit before it crashed. The NTSB said the Amtrak Northeast Regional train was rounding a curve at 170 kilometers an hour. The posted speed limit is 80 kilometers an hour. Sumwalt said Thursday that the train sped up in the last minute or so before the wreck, accelerating from 110 kilometers per hour. He said it was not clear whether the speed was increased manually. So far, he said, investigators have found no problems with the track or the signals. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters Thursday, "I do not think that any commonsense person would think that it was in any way OK" for the train to be traveling at the speed recorded on the train's black box, which  collected key information during the planned trip from Washington to New York.

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US plays down IS militants' gains in Iraq 

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Despite major new setbacks in Iraq, the U.S. military command leading the fight against Islamic State militants insisted Friday that its strategy is working and that the militants' takeover of a key oil refinery and a government compound are fleeting gains feeding an IS propaganda machine....

Russian Tycoon Taps Ex-Swedish Foreign Minister And Kremlin Critic As Adviser 

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Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman's LetterOne Group has named former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as an adviser to its board.

House Blocks Chance at Military Service for ‘Dreamers’

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The U.S. House of Representatives has moved to block the Pentagon from allowing young immigrants who are in the United States illegally — but have been given temporary legal status under a program started by President Barack Obama — to enlist in the military. The measure was passed Friday as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, approving $612 billion for defense programs in 2016. The Republican sponsor of the amendment, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, cited cuts...

Tehran's Friday Prayer Leader Calls On Saudis To Rise Up

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Tehran's temporary Friday Prayers leader, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, has called on Saudi citizens to rise up against their country's rulers and to speak out against their "crimes."

FBI probe damage to Amtrak crash train

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Investigators examine whether cab was struck by an object before leaving rails

Amtrak Train May Have Been Struck Before It Derailed, Officials Say

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PHILADELPHIA — An assistant conductor on the Amtrak train that derailed on Tuesday believes she heard the engineer tell another regional train operator in a radio transmission that the train had been struck by something just before the accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
At a news conference on Friday, Robert L. Sumwalt, the safety board official who is leading the investigation, said the F.B.I. had been asked to examine what he described as a fist-size impact area found on the lower left side of the train’s windshield. Officials said that the F.B.I. had been called in because it has the forensics expertise needed for the investigation, but that it had not yet begun its analysis.
Mr. Sumwalt said investigators had interviewed three crew members, including the engineer, whom they said was “extremely cooperative” and displayed good knowledge of the proper procedures and speeds for the rail line. He said the engineer had not been fatigued and was not ill.
“He recalls ringing the train bell as he went through North Philadelphia Station, as required,” Mr. Sumwalt said. “He has no recollection of anything past that.”
The assistant conductor, however, who was working in the cafe car, heard the engineer talking to his counterpart on a SEPTA regional line, who said his train had been “hit by a rock or shot at,” according to Mr. Sumwalt. The assistant conductor said she thought she heard the Amtrak engineer, Brandon Bostian, reply that his train had also been struck.
“Right after she recalled hearing this conversation between her engineer and the SEPTA engineer, she said she felt a rumbling, and her train leaned over and her car went over on its side,” Mr. Sumwalt said.
SEPTA — the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority — said earlier this week that an “unknown projectile” had struck the engineer’s window of a train from Trenton at about 9:10 p.m., shortly before the Amtrak derailment. No injuries were reported, but the train was held at a nearby station because of the damage.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that another Amtrak train was struck on a coach window about 30 minutes before the crash, before the regional train was hit.
The train that derailed, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train from Washington to New York City, was traveling over 100 miles an hour, more than twice the speed limit at that point, when it left the tracks,killing eight people and injuring more than 200.
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