On February 18, France 24 reported that Tunisia’s appeals court sentenced 20 men convicted of participating in a 2012 attack on the US embassy to prison terms after an initial ruling was deemed too lenient.
The State Department was asked about the verdicts and here is its official response:
“The verdicts issued by the Appellate Court reflect a serious response to the September 2012 attack on U.S. Embassy Tunis. That said, we remain disappointed that justice in this case has been delayed so long and remains incomplete with several key suspects still at large. We hope that all those responsible for the attack on the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis will be brought to justice without further delay.”
On September 17, 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen was attacked by armed militants. The armed attack which includes car and suicide bombings resulted in the death of seven militants and 12 security personnel and civilians. Greg D. Johnsen in telling the story of that day, writes that things would have been unimaginably worse if not for an unlikely hero. This also shows how much our diplomatic posts are at the mercy of their host countries’ security support. If the host country’s security personnel runs away or refuses to fight, our people overseas are on their own.
Gregory D. Johnsen — follow him @gregorydjohnsen — is the Michael Hastings National Security Fellow and author of The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia. Excerpt below:
The men knew their early Islamic history, and had picked their target accordingly. For them, Sept. 17 was a holy date. On the Islamic calendar, which held to the lunar cycle, the date was Ramadan 17, 1429. Centuries earlier, at the very beginning of Islam — 624 A.D., or the second year on the Muslim calendar — the Prophet Muhammad led a small band of believers into battle against a much larger pagan force. That morning on the plains south of Medina, the ragtag Muslim army stunned the pagans, a victory Muhammad and the Qur’an attributed to divine intervention. […]
The plan was simple: The first vehicle would crash into the main gate, exploding a hole in the embassy’s perimeter and allowing the second jeep and the rest of the men to flood into the main compound and kill as many Americans as they could before they were gunned down. But to do that they had to pass through the concentric circles of security undetected.
At the first checkpoint, the one manned by the Central Security Force, soldiers glanced at the military license plates on the jeeps and waved them through.
The two jeeps pulled ahead to the next checkpoint and stopped. “We have a general here to see the ambassador,” one of the men shouted at Mukhtar and Shumayla.
Neither of them knew anything about a meeting. This wasn’t protocol. Seche hardly ever met people at the embassy; he usually went out. Still, the ambassador didn’t consult with them on his decisions.
Shumayla moved first, walking toward the jeeps to check IDs. About halfway there he paused. The windows in the jeeps were so darkly tinted that he couldn’t see inside. That wasn’t right. Mukhtar was already pulling on the rope to raise the drop bar when Shumayla saw it: a man in the lead jeep popping through a hole in the roof and clutching a Kalashnikov.
“Ya, Mukhtar,” Shumayla shouted. “Run.”
And then the shooting started. Three men jumped out of the trailing jeep, firing as they ran. Shumayla was gone, fleeing for the protection of several concrete barriers. But Mukhtar waited. He had to get the bar down. Letting the rope slide back down through his hands, he hit the duck-and-cover alarm — the embassy’s early warning system — as the bar crashed back down. It all lasted only a few seconds, but that was all it took. One bullet hit him below the left the shoulder; another took him in the stomach. He managed to turn and run about 10 yards toward some rocks before a third bullet hit him in the back and exploded out his chest.
According to Greg Johnsen’s report, Mukhtar al-Faqih was posthumously awarded the Department of State’s Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service for sacrificing his life and giving “the last full measure of devotion to his colleagues and friends.” The U.S. Embassy reportedly hired his younger brother Muhammad to replace him as a security guard but has denied the fourth and youngest brother, Walid, a visa to travel to the U.S.
The following is an excerpt from Ambassador Frank Ricciardone on the passing of local guard, Mustafa Akarsu who was killed last week in the suicide bombing at the US Embassy in Ankara:
We lost a brave Turkish member of our Mission family. We are all are profoundly grateful for the Mustafa Akarsu, a hero who stood guard every day, was skillful and dedicated to his duty, and who died defending the Turks and the Americans who work at our embassy. We will never forget his ultimate sacrifice. We salute his bravery and his service to Turkey and to Turkish-American friendship. Our hearts go out to his family.
In honor of our fallen colleague Mustafa Akarsu, I have directed that flags at the U.S. Embassy and our consulates in Turkey will fly at half staff until sunset on Wednesday February 6. On Monday at 13:13, we will observe a moment of silence in Mustafa Bey’s memory, precisely 72 hours after the moment of his sacrifice.
Photo via US Embassy Ankara/FB
Apparently, Mustafa Bey had also been thinking ahead to retire and to bringing his young son and daughter to the United States to study. We’re not thoroughly familiar with SIVs, but we know that to immigrate to the United States under the special immigrant visa category, you need the principal beneficiary of a petition, typically the USG employee who has performed faithful service for at least fifteen years. The principal officer usually recommends the granting of special immigrant status to an employee or former employee in exceptional circumstances and the Secretary of State approves the recommendation if he/she finds it in the national interest. We’re not sure if Mustafa Bey was at this stage, but we hope that the USG will not forget his children.
As Marines and sailors of BSRF-13 prepared to deploy as the crisis contingency force in Eastern Europe they did a role play of an embassy attack. About 40 role players stood in a crowd screaming at the Marines in the simulated embassy as six Marine role players attacked the embassy.
“The scenario is an embassy is being attacked and we are called in to support them,” said Cpl. Wesley Lanier, a team leader with Easy Co., BSRF-13 “Once at the embassy we help out any way we can whether it’s calming riots or talking to locals about what we can help with.”
Marines with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, hold back Marine role players that are attacking the mock embassy as an evaluator watches and grades them. Marines and sailors with Easy Company, and the 2013 iteration of the Black Sea Rotational Force conducted their first embassy reinforcement mission rehearsal exercise the week of January 7. Photo By: Cpl. Phillip R. Clark
The Marines says that “Training like this is very important so they can practice repetition and work out the kinks before they deploy in case they are called upon to reinforce an embassy.” According to Capt. Robert L. Long, the intelligence officer for 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment,“The goal of embassy reinforcement is to help protect the embassy and all the personnel inside of it and the Marines are doing just that.”
Last week, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, released a statement announcing that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify at an open hearing on the Benghazi attack report. Excerpt from statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“I have just received confirmation from Secretary Clinton’s office that the Secretary of State will appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss, in an open hearing, the findings and recommendations in the report from the accountability review board (ARB) concerning the terrorist attack against our diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.”
According to CNN, Secretary Clinton will appear before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on December 20:
Next week’s testimony is expected to be proceeded by the release of the findings of an independent review of the State Department’s handling of security and the threats in Libya. The review, requested by the Accountability Review Board, is headed by former U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering and includes former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.
Secretary Clinton will also testify before the Senate Foreign Relations (SFRC) committee although a date has not been announced yet.
Tomorrow at 2 pm, the SFRC is holding a TOP SECRET/CLOSED: National Security Brief on Attacks in Benghazi.
The names of the witnesses are not posted online. Could this be the Pickering-Mullen appearance? Previous news report said that Senator Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had asked that Ambassador Pickering (ARB chairman)and retired Adm. Mike Mullen (ARB member) appear before the committee before Secretary Clinton.
The US Embassy in Dhaka issued an emergency message to American citizens in Bangladesh with a reminder to remain vigilant following an attack of one of its official vehicles where an embassy driver was injured.
The Embassy confirms that a U.S. Embassy vehicle was attacked in Dhaka outside of the diplomatic enclave early this morning. Our driver sustained minor injuries and has received medical treatment. The vehicle also sustained significant damage and is now at the Embassy annex. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident. All members of the American community should remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.
We remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. Be alert and aware at all times – in addition to possible violence, large crowds attract pick-pocketing. All individuals are reminded to carry their mobile phones with them at all times. American citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Local reports says that the Jamaat-e-Islamitook responsibility for the attack by its supporters and offered apology:
Police have filed a case under the Speedy Trial Act accusing five people of vandalism and arson attempt, Khilkhet Police Station Officer-in-Charge Shamim Hossain said.
Habildar Siddiqul Islam, the plaintiff, also accused 10-15 unidentified others.
“On 4th December, at around 8.45 AM, a US Embassy motor pool vehicle was attacked by a crowd causing minor injuries to the driver and damage to the vehicle,” read the press statement posted on the official website of the party whose top leadership is currently behind bars on charge of committing crimes against humanity.
“After carrying out a preliminary inquiry into the matter, we accept responsibility for this unfortunate incident, which is the first of its kind. We condemn it. We offer our apologies to the US Embassy and to the victims and will provide compensation,” the statement continued.
The website attributed the statement to their Acting Secretary General Md Shafiqur Rahman.
In a separate Daily Star report, Kelly McCarthy, press and information officer of the embassy, was quoted as saying that the vehicle was attacked in the vicinity of Pragati Sarani and Airport Road, injuring the driver and several policemen in the vehicle:
McCarthy said the injured driver was receiving treatment for his injuries.
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack on our diplomatic vehicle in Dhaka today,” she said, adding, “The United States places a high priority on the safety and security of diplomatic personnel and any attack on diplomatic property or personnel is an affront to the entire international community.”
She said the US embassy appreciated the assistance and support of the government and Dhaka Metropolitan Police to protect American citizens and US embassy property.
“We call upon the perpetrators to be held accountable for this unprovoked attack on a diplomatic vehicle and its innocent occupants,” she said.
The new Consul General for the USCG Peshawar arrived last month and has assumed charge. This is one officer who did not just do one week of crash and bang at some Virginia farm.
Robert Reed joined the U.S. Department of State in 1985. His first assignment was in the Diplomatic Security Boston Field Office. He was then transferred to Secretary George Shultz’s protective Detail in 1987, where he served as a Supervisory Agent.
In 1989 he was assigned as an Assistant Regional Security Officer at American Embassy Bonn, Germany followed by a tour in Bamako, Mali, where he served as Regional Security Officer (RSO). In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he served for three years as RSO followed by an additional year as the Haitian Presidential Security Advisor to then President Rene Preval. After Haiti, Mr. Reed was assigned to Kingston, Jamaica as RSO.
From 2002 to 2006, Mr. Reed was the RSO in London, UK. In 2006 Mr. Reed served in Iraq, as Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader for Karbala and Wasit Provinces. Following a tour as RSO Moscow from 2007 to 2009, he returned to Iraq as the Senior Regional Security Officer, overseeing the U.S. State Department’s largest security program. Prior to his current assignment as the Consul General in Peshawar, Mr. Reed served as the Senior Olympic Security Coordinator, managing the protection of Team USA for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Team USA came out of London without a security hitch. And he gets a promotion to one of the most dangerous assignments in the Foreign Service. But given what happened to USCG Peshawar yesterday, we are pleased that an experienced officer like Mr. Reed is at the helm of this post that has been under siege for the last several years.
Click on photo to view video greeting.
The 2012 Crime and Safety Report has this to say about Peshawar, Pakistan:
The U.S. Department of State rates Peshawar and surrounding areas as “high” for crime, but the overall security environment in Peshawar is inextricably linked to the “critical” terrorist threat that touches all aspects of life for expatriates and locals alike in Northwest Pakistan. Local authorities do not keep reliable crime statistics, and tracking incremental changes in the crime and safety situation is difficult. However, following the Abbottabad raid in May 2011 and the November 2011 Mohmand cross-border incident, anti-American sentiment and continued extremist activity continue to render Peshawar one of the world’s most challenging security environments for westerners. The overall number of terrorist acts in the “settled areas” of Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province has fallen compared to prior year figures, but attacks continue to occur, particularly against commercial targets and local government facilities.
In 2010, the U.S. Consulate weathered a direct assult. In May 2011, a Consulate motorcade was attacked via Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) in the “University Town” neighborhood in Peshawar where the city’s relatively few western-affiliated offices and residences are located.
The 2010 OIG inspection report called Peshawar the most dangerous Foreign Service post in the world, and the 2012 CFR did not dispute that characterization. According to the May 2012 CFR, Peshawar is also seriously disadvantaged by the fact that it is viewed through the prism of Islamabad, rather than in its real context as “Afghanistan’s near abroad.”
“This optic understates the realities of both living and security conditions, which are more in line with those in Baghdad and Kabul. It also means that that compensation and benefits afforded to those in Peshawar are not in line with those living in comparable conditions in nearby Afghanistan.”
We wrote this piece last week before the latest attack occurred. We have since learned that the two Americans and two Pakistanis wounded in the vehicle attack are all part of the Diplomatic Security (Regional Security Office) at USCG Peshawar.
Our thoughts are with them, and we hope for their speedy recovery.
The AP is reporting that a suicide car bomb hit an armored SUV of the US Consulate General in Peshawar. The attack reportedly killed two Pakistanis and wounded 19 other people, including two American personnel and two local staff of the consulate, as well as policemen who were protecting the Americans.
Updated @6:49 pm PST:Our source from the US Embassy in Islamabad says that the four were in the vehicle and were saved by accompanying local police who pulled them out after the attack – two Americans and two Pakistanis were slightly wounded. One American is in a hospital in Islamabad but injuries are not life-threatening. All four are part of the Diplomatic Security (Regional Security Office) at the Consulate General in Peshawar.
The armored SUV from the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was attacked as it traveled through a heavily guarded area of the city that hosts various international organizations, including the United Nations. It was unclear how the bomber penetrated the area and knew which vehicle to attack.
The car driven by the bomber was packed with 110 kilograms (240 pounds) of explosives, police said. The blast ripped apart the SUV – tossing its engine at least 6 meters (20 feet) away – and started a raging fire. Rescue workers and residents rushed to put out the fire and pull away the dead and wounded. All that was left of the SUV was a charred mass of twisted metal with a red diplomatic license plate.
Local news says that the US consulate vehicle was at Abdara Road in University Town when targeted by the car bomb. The explosion reportedly left a crater in the road and destroyed a Jeep, damaging two others and demolishing the facing walls of four nearby houses.
Department of State Spokesperson Toria Nuland confims that four consulate staff were wounded in the attack:
“We can confirm that a vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was hit in an apparent terrorist attack. Two U.S. personnel and two Pakistani staff of the Consulate were injured and are receiving medical treatment. No U.S. Consulate personnel were killed, but we are seeking further information about other victims of this heinous act.”
U.S. Embassy Islamabad also released the following statement by Charge d’affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland:
“I am grateful for the humane professionalism of the local Pakistani security forces who saved the lives of the two American Diplomats and two Pakistani local staff of the U.S. Consulate General Peshawar by pulling them to safety after their vehicle was attacked. In this dangerous world where terrorists can strike at any moment, we must all work together – Pakistanis and Americans alike – because we have a strong mutual interest in defeating terrorism.”
Peshawar, Afghanistan’s Near Abroad and a Recommendation of Possible Closure
In May 2012, State/OIG released its Compliance Follow-up Review of the US Mission in Pakistan. In that CFR, the inspectors points out that Peshawar remains the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service and that it should be viewed not just as a dangerous consulate general in Pakistan but what it termed as “Afghanistan’s near abroad,” that is, a location similar to one of the provinces of Afghanistan without the NATO coalition forces.
By all calculations, Peshawar is the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service. The OIG team believes strongly that Peshawar should be viewed as “Afghanistan’s near abroad” rather than a dangerous consulate general in Pakistan. The conditions are analogous to those faced in one of the provinces of Afghanistan, without the benefit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization security. The consulate general is located in the former consul general’s residence on a Pakistani military cantonment. Security is so dire that employees are frequently required to sleep in their offices on the very confined consulate compound rather than travel to their residences in town. Despite this situation, the employees have an unflagging commitment to the mission and good morale bolstered by a sense of teamwork. Given the U.S. Government’s commitment to our continued presence in Peshawar, it is critical that more be done to assist these beleaguered personnel. They are under constant threat of terrorist attacks and harassed by local government agents, it is difficult to impossible for them to travel in the region and their present existence is analogous to a state of siege.
It appears that the OIG team also made a recommendation about the possible closure of the Consulate General in Peshawar but since it is in the security annex, presumably in the classified portion of the report, we don’t know the actual wording of the recommendation except for the following contained in the publicly released report:
Of the 27 informal recommendations in the security annex, all but 1 was closed by the CFR. Informal Recommendation 19 regarding the ability of Consulate General Peshawar to develop a way to drawdown in the event of a catastrophic incident needs to be reevaluated. It was not reissued as a formal recommendation; however, a new recommendation regarding the possible closure of Consulate General Peshawar was added.
We have a separate post drafted on the newly arrived CG in Peshawar from last week that we have not been able to post due to duties beyond this blog. We hope to have that up in a bit.
You’ve heard the news. Two US Embassy Mexico employees were wounded in the shooting of an embassy SUV with a diplomatic plate on August 24. The wounded were described as “US Embassy officials” here. The LAT calls them “U.S. government employees” here. CNN originally described the injured as “three U.S. Marines” here.
We’ve been waiting for an official statement from the US Embassy in Mexico. A statement finally came out late August 24, 2012. See below:
Mexico City, August 24, 2012 – This morning two U.S. Government personnel and a Mexican Navy captain were in a U.S diplomatic vehicle driving to a training facility, when they were ambushed by a group of individuals.
The vehicle attempted to escape, was pursued and sustained heavy damage. They called for assistance from the Mexican armed forces, who responded. The two U.S. wounded personnel were taken from the scene, given medical treatment and are in stable condition. The Mexican Navy captain sustained no serious injuries.
The Government of Mexico has acknowledged that members of the Federal Police were involved and fired on the U.S. Embassy vehicle. The Government of Mexico has begun an investigation and detained members of the Federal Police who were involved.
The Government of Mexico has stated it will conduct a full and thorough investigation of this incident. The Embassy has been cooperating closely with the Mexican authorities and will assist in every way possible.
The Reuters report cites a Mexican government security official saying that the federal police had thought the vehicle belonged to a group of suspected kidnappers they were pursuing, and had opened fire on it.
“This was all because of a mix-up,” the official said.
The incident occurred at 8 a.m. Friday, when the two embassy employees and the Mexican were en route through the mountainous area to a navy facility in the municipality of Xalatlaco, according to a statement issued Friday by the Mexican Navy, which gave the following account:
The black SUV bearing a diplomatic license plate had just left the main highway that connects Mexico City with Cuernavaca and were driving on a dirt road that connects the small towns of Tres Marias and Huitzilac when a vehicle approached. When the occupants brandished firearms, the driver of the diplomatic vehicle tried to evade them and return to the main highway. At that point, the occupants sprayed bullets into the black SUV with diplomatic plates.
Moments later, another three vehicles joined the chase and fired shots at the embassy vehicle. The Mexican in the SUV called for help from the Mexican Navy personnel in nearby El Capulin who arrived after the shooting had ended and cordoned off the area.
Federal police, who were in the area working on a criminal investigation, participated in these acts, the statement said, but did not specify which vehicle or vehicles they were in.
Both embassy employees were taken — under federal police guard — to a hospital.
Photographs of the SUV showed the embassy vehicle pockmarked with more than a dozen holes and at least three of its tires flat.
Click on image to see video report
Potential to Get Swept Under the Rug?
Sylvia Longmire, a drug war cartel analyst and author of “Cartel: the Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars” told CNN that the long-term impact of the shooting will depend on how aggressively the Mexican government pursues the investigation.
“I’m somewhat skeptical that anyone will be brought to justice in this attack,” she told CNN Saturday. “Remember, nobody knows who shot the Americans. They’re still going to have to do ballistic reports.”
Though federal police have a reputation for being among the least corrupt of Mexico’s security forces, “I’m concerned that there is a potential for this to get swept under the rug,” she said.
How, where, when U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband Arthur Redelfs and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of a U.S. Consulate employee were dot–connected to a drug-gang that caused their deaths, we still don’t know.
On October 28, 2011 at 3:45 p.m. several rounds of gunfire were fired on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. A man armed with hand grenades and an automatic weapon opened fire outside the US Embassy in Sarajevo. He was later wounded by the Bosnian police and other possible accomplices were arrested.
On October 28, 2011, a See the video below via RT:
The gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Mevlid Jasarevic, is accused of shooting at the embassy building in Sarajevo for at least 30 minutes, striking the building more than 100 times, and wounding a policeman guarding the facility, before a police sniper immobilized him with a shot in his leg.
According to Reuters prosecutors in Bosnia charged three men with terrorism on Monday over the 2011 attack:
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that Jasarevic, Emrah Fojnica and Munib Ahmetspahic were accused of forming a terrorist group in the northeastern village of Gornja Maoca, home to adherents of the strict Wahhabi branch of Islam.
The group aimed to improve the status of their community through violence and “terrorist activities” against state institutions and foreign diplomatic missions, the statement said. Fojnica and Ahmetspahic were charged with helping Jasarevic carry out the attack and concealing evidence.