IN­TEL WARNED OF TRUCK AT­TACKS

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BILL GERTZ

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies is­sued gen­eral warn­ings around the world that Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists were plan­ning to use trucks in at­tacks on gath­er­ings of peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with in­tel­li­gence re­ports.

Spe­cific warn­ings were is­sued to al­lied in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in Europe and Asia based on in­for­ma­tion gleaned from the Is­lamic State, in­di­cat­ing the ter­ror­ist group’s sym­pa­thiz­ers would con­duct at­tacks us­ing large trucks in Christ­mas-re­lated killing sprees.

That sce­nario played out last week in Ber­lin, where a truck bar­reled through a crowded mar­ket, killing 12 peo­ple and in­jur­ing 48.

The at­tack is be­ing blamed on a fugi­tive Tu­nisian, Anis Amri, a rad­i­cal with known links to an Is­lamic ter­ror­ism leader, ac­cord­ing to Ger­man au­thor­i­ties.

A U.S. of­fi­cial said the Ber­lin at­tack has been linked in­di­rectly to the Is­lamic State’s en­treaties to sym­pa­thiz­ers around the world to use trucks in at­tacks at this time of year. The warn­ing said ter­ror­ists would com­man­deer large, multi-axle trucks and drive them into crowded ar­eas.

The Ber­lin mas­sacre was a copy­cat of a ter­ror­ist at­tack in Nice, France. The July 14 killings in­volved a cargo truck driven into a crowd on Bastille Day, killing 86 peo­ple and in­jur­ing 434 oth­ers. The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for that at­tack.

The Is­lamic State is seek­ing to re­peat truck at­tacks to achieve its goal of seek­ing a caliphate, a global regime un­der Is­lamic rule.

The group on Mon­day de­clared that the per­pe­tra­tor of the Ber­lin at­tack was a “sol­dier of the caliphate,” the Is­lamic State-af­fil­i­ated Amaq web­site stated.

The truck at­tacks in­di­cate that the Is­lamic State con­tin­ues to move be­yond its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and con­duct deadly strikes in Europe and else­where.

Se­cu­rity in the United States is be­ing in­creased fol­low­ing the Ber­lin at­tack. The State De­part­ment warned last month that Amer­i­cans face a height­ened risk of at­tack in Europe dur­ing the holiday sea­son.

“Ter­ror­ist at­tacks against holiday gath­er­ings (in­clud­ing pub­lic Christ­mas and New Year’s cel­e­bra­tions) have oc­curred in Europe in the past,” said a State se­cu­rity re­port. “Jewish in­ter­ests have also been tar­geted by Is­lamist ex­trem­ists; this year, Hanukkah co­in­cides with Christ­mas.”

A se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cer said the dispatch of the de­stroyer was de­lib­er­ate and in­tended to sig­nal to China that its in­ter­fer­ence with sur­vey op­er­a­tions was an un­ac­cept­able vi­o­la­tion of free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters.

China pri­vately has at­tempted to por­tray the drone in­ci­dent as the re­sult of an overzeal­ous naval of­fi­cer of the South China Sea fleet, a claim met with deep skep­ti­cism by the Pen­tagon and Pa­cific Com­mand.

“We know that no Chi­nese naval of­fi­cer would ever con­duct some­thing like that with­out [higher] ap­proval,” a U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cer told In­side the Ring.

The ves­sel that seized the float­ing drone was a Dalang III-class ship, used in sub­ma­rine res­cues.

The drone was iden­ti­fied as an “LBS glider,” or Lit­toral Bat­tlespace Sens­ing-Glider, which is ca­pa­ble trans­mit­ting ocean data for up to six months. The glider is used in anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare ac­tiv­i­ties as well as anti-mine war­fare and spe­cial op­er­a­tions mis­sions.

The Pen­tagon is­sued a rel­a­tively mild pub­lic re­buke, re­flect­ing con­cil­ia­tory Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion poli­cies to­ward China.

“This in­ci­dent was in­con­sis­tent with both in­ter­na­tional law and stan­dards of pro­fes­sion­al­ism for con­duct be­tween navies at sea,” the Pen­tagon said in a state­ment.

“The U.S. has ad­dressed those facts with the Chi­nese through the ap­pro­pri­ate diplo­matic and mil­i­tary chan­nels, and have called on Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties to com­ply with their obli­ga­tions un­der in­ter­na­tional law and to re­frain from fur­ther ef­forts to im­pede law­ful U.S. ac­tiv­i­ties.”

The Pen­tagon said it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent and in­sisted that U.S. mil­i­tary forces will “con­tinue to fly, sail, and op­er­ate in the South China Sea wher­ever in­ter­na­tional law al­lows, in the same way that we op­er­ate ev­ery­where else around the world.”

The area where the Navy ocean sur­vey was car­ried out is a high-in­ter­est tar­get for U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that are closely mon­i­tor­ing a covert Chi­nese mil­i­tary buildup on the is­lands in the re­gion.

Days ear­lier, newly pub­li­cized satel­lite photographs re­vealed new Chi­nese mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions on sev­eral reefs, specif­i­cally hexagon-shaped naval gun em­place­ments on sev­eral is­lands and reefs that pose threats to U.S. and al­lied ships.

The Navy has been aware of the short-range naval guns pho­tographed on the Spratly Is­lands since ear­lier this year. The guns were spot­ted on Fiery Cross, Mis­chief and Subi reefs last sum­mer, and re­cently at smaller fa­cil­i­ties on Gaven, Hughes, John­son and Cuar­teron reefs.

Each gun em­place­ment is made up of ei­ther large­cal­iber guns or, on some reefs, a small mis­sile bat­tery along with an ad­ja­cent fire con­trol radar.

The Pen­tagon is wor­ried about the gun de­ploy­ments be­cause of their plug-and-play ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The weapons cur­rently in place have ranges of a mile or two that pose lit­tle dan­ger to Navy war­ships, which have been and will con­tinue to con­duct pas­sages near the reefs.

How­ever, mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts have de­ter­mined that the guns and mis­siles can be swapped out for longer-range and more lethal Chi­nese an­ti­ship mis­siles. Adding more deadly anti-ship mis­siles would pro­vide China with mil­i­tary con­trol over the strate­gic water­way that China is seek­ing to grad­u­ally take over.

The South China Sea mil­i­tary buildup is be­ing car­ried out grad­u­ally by the Chi­nese to avoid trig­ger­ing a larger cri­sis.

“It’s like a frog be­ing boiled alive,” the mil­i­tary of­fi­cer said of the creep­ing Chi­nese mil­i­tary buildup.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Be­fore the deadly ter­ror­ist at­tack in Ber­lin last week, U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies had is­sued warn­ings to their coun­ter­parts in Europe and Asia about Is­lamic State threats to launch Christ­mas-re­lated killing sprees.

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