SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- North Korea could be preparing to conduct a fourth nuclear test, following signs of activity at the country's main testing site, South Korea's unification minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, said on Monday.
Ryoo told a meeting with MPs at the national assembly that Seoul had acquired evidence of increased movement of vehicles and personnel at Punggye-ri, the Yonhap news agency said.
The site on North Korea's north-east coast is where the country's three previous controlled nuclear detonations – in 2006, 2009 and on 12 February this year – took place.
Ryoo's comments came after a South Korean newspaper quoted an unnamed government source as saying that workers appeared to be preparing for another test at Punggye-ri.
The JoongAng Ilbo quoted the source as saying that South Korean intelligence had detected "increased activity of labour forces and vehicles" at the site.
"We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation, which is very similar to the situation ahead of the third nuclear test. We are trying to figure out whether it is a genuine preparation for a nuclear test or just a ploy to heap more pressure on us and the US," it said.
The prospect of a nuclear test is certain to add to tensions on the peninsula amid reports that the regime in Pyongyang could be planning to launch a medium-range missile from its east coat, possibly as early as Wednesday.
Any missile launch is expected to be a test rather than a targeted strike and could take place in the runup to the 101st anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, on 15 April. Another significant date is the anniversary of the foundation of the Korean people's army 10 days later.
Last week, North Korea warned foreign embassies in Pyongyang it could not guarantee their safety from the threat of conflict after Wednesday this week and advised them to consider pulling their staff out of the capital.
The North has unleashed a barrage of threats since the UN imposed sanctions in response to February's nuclear test. It has also been angered by military exercises involving South Korea and the US that are due to run to the end of the month.
The regime has threatened to launch nuclear strikes against the US mainland and its bases in the Pacific, declared itself in a "state of war" with South Korea and cut its military hotline with Seoul.
Last week, it banned South Korean workers from entering the Kaesong industrial complex – a jointly run enterprise located just north of the heavily armed border dividing the peninsula and an important source of hard currency for Pyongyang. The ban remained in place on Monday.
The North's latest moves are being seen as an attempt to push fears of an impending military crisis in the hope of winning concessions from Washington. There are no signs that the regime is mobilising its army of 1.2 million in preparation for any sort of attack.
The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, said he did not believe the North would take military action, but added: "I can't take the chance that it won't."
The US has brought forward the deployment of a missile defence system to Guam, a US territory in the Pacific. It has drawn up plans with South Korea on how to respond to specific military provocations by the North.
The allies would "respond more forcefully than in the recent past but in a limited way intended to prevent an escalation to broader war", the New York Times said, citing Pentagon officials.
A nuclear test would anger China, which has shown signs of growing frustration with North Korea, a major recipient of Chinese aid.
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, alluded to North Korean provocations when he said no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain" in a speech on Sunday.
In a telephone conversation with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, at the weekend, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, said Beijing "opposes provocative words and actions from any party in the region and do not allow trouble-making on China's doorstep", according to the ministry's website.
The commander of the 28,000 US troops based in South Korea, General James Thurman, abruptly cancelled a visit to Washington where he had been due to testify before congressional committees. Thurman would remain in Seoul as a "prudent measure", according to a US military official quoted by the Associated Press.
The chairman of South Korea's joint chiefs of staff, General Jung Seung-jo, also cancelled a visit to Washington later this week in light of rising tensions at home.
Dan Pfeiffer, an adviser to President Obama, said the administration "wouldn't be surprised" if the North conducted a missile test or similar provocation.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – At least two people were killed and as many as 120 injured in Thanksgiving pileups involving an estimated 100 cars on a foggy stretch of highway in southeast Texas, authorities said.
The first accident -- a multi-car wreck in the eastbound lands of Interstate 10 -- occurred about 8:45 a.m., according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Chain-reaction crashes followed, the department said in a news release, and included several accidents in the westbound lanes of the intersate, southwest of Beaumont in Jefferson County.
"Initial reports at the time of the crash indicated there was dense fog, which could be a contributing factor to those crashes," Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Stephanie Davis said.
The two fatalities occurred in the same vehicle, authorities said. The victims were identified as Vincent Leggio, 64, and Debra Leggio, 60, both of Pearland, Texas.
The two were killed when their vehicle was hit from behind by an 18-wheeler, the Department of Public Safety said.
Video from CNN affiliate KBMT showed badly mangled vehicles atop one another and people who appeared to be injured stretched out in grass alongside the highway and on ambulance gurneys. Long lines of cars, each battered and some appearing to be totaled, lined the roadway. The vehicles included cars, minivans, pickups, tractor-trailer trucks and at least one FedEx truck.
In several pictures, there appeared to be a slight sheen of fog.
It was not known exactly how many injuries resulted from the accidents, said Davis.
Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Rod Carroll said that at least 80 and as many as 120 injured people were taken from the scene. The most seriously injured were being transported to Houston, about 75 miles away.
Several victims were transported to neighboring hospitals in Beaumont and Port Arthur.
The role of fog and the causes of the accidents were still under investigation, Davis said.
Westbound lanes of the interstate were closed for nearly four hours before being reopened. The eastbound lanes of I-10 were closed after the accident throughout most of the day, with the Department of Public Safety saying shortly after 5 p.m. that those lanes had been cleared of debris and reopened.– www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The shooter suspected of killing three people and wounding four others at a spa near a mall in Brookfield, Wisconsin, has been found dead with a reportedly self-inflicted gunshot wound, a local police chief told the media.
The body of the suspect, Radcliffe Franklin Haughton, 45, has been found by police after a six hour extensive manhunt. Radcliffe is thought to have gone on a shooting spree on Sunday morning, opening fire at the Azana Day Spa near the Brookfield Square Mall.
The shooting occurred at 11 am local time, with three people dead and four rushed to a nearby hospital. A spokeswoman at the local Froedtert Hospital says it has received four patients from the shooting, none critical and expects three more.
Authorities have been looking for a suspect described as a heavy-set, bald black male in military fatigues who was possibly driving a 2003 Black Mazda. Several roads in the area were blocked off and police are holding tactical positions at the scene of the shooting. The manhunt in suburban Milwaukee continued for six hours.
The Brookfield Square Mall and an adjacent country club were initially put on lockdown. As of 1:20 PM local time, however, people were allowed to leave the mall. Several entrances at hte Froedtert Hospital have been blocked off as the location of the shooter remains unknown.
Milwaukee FBI spokesman Leonard Peace told AP its SWAT team, hostage negotiators, command staff and victims specialists had been dispatched to respond to the shooting.
ATF spokesman Robert Schmidt said 10 agents were at the scene. The area was also swept for bombs.
David Josh, a witness to the incident, said they said a woman run out into a nearby road screaming amidst the traffic.
"She ran right out into the street was pounding on cars," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quotes him as saying.
Gosh said a large black man armed with a handgun ran onto the street in pursuit of the woman. Police then showed up, at which point the alleged shooter ran back into the building, or possibly the woods behind the building.
"He was the shooter," Gosh said. "He was looking for an escape route," Gosh continue.
Several other witnesses reported seeing a barefoot woman fleeing the scene
Christopher Pfeiffer, who was parked outside a nearby Barnes & Noble bookstore, said he saw a young woman running between the parked vehicles.
She was screaming, yelling, crying hysterical. She was pleading for help," said Pfeiffer said. "She kept saying, 'My mother was shot.' And she mentioned that there was a gunman. She ran into the bookstore and I followed her. But I watched her from afar."
The Brookfield Patch reports the suspect is apparently the estranged husband of one of the hair stylists at the spa. The unemployed man had allegedly slashed tires in the parking lot of the complex and put up signs on the spa's doors warning employees to keep them locked.
Sunday's incident was the second mass shooting in Wisconsin this year. In August, Army veteran and white supremacist Wade Page killed six people and injured three others before taking his own life at a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee.
Brookfield was also the scene of another infamous mass shooting. In 2005, Terry Ratzmann walked into a local Sheraton Hotel and shot dead seven members of the Living Church of God before turning the gun on himself.
Four others were wounded in the shooting, one critically. Ratzmann, who was reportedly about to lose his job, had been sent into a rage by a sermon given at the church two weeks prior.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The US is preparing for military operations to kill or capture militants suspected of involvement in the killing of US diplomats in Libya during an anti-American protest at the US Consulate in Benghazi.
“The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is compiling so-called target packages of detailed information about the suspects,” The New York Times reported Wednesday, quoting “senior [American] military and counterterrorism officials.
“Working with the Pentagon and the CIA (spy agency),” the report adds, “the command is preparing the dossiers as the first step in anticipation of possible orders from President [Barack] Obama to take action against those determined to have played a role in the attack.”
Possible military options, the report notes, would include “drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden and joint missions with Libyan authorities.”
The report also points out the decision by American officials come as the “weak Libyan government” seems incapable of detaining or even questioning those suspected of involvement in the reported attack that came amid angry demonstrations at the American diplomatic post in reaction to the publication of a US-made anti-Islam video that grossly insulted highly revered Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
The development comes nearly a month before US presidential election in early November as the Obama administration has come under increasing criticism by the rival Republican Party and its presidential nominee Mitt Romney over intelligence failures prior to the incident, including fresh accusations that repeated pleas for more security at the Benghazi compound had been ignored.
Any American military action inside Libya, however, would “risk casualties and almost certainly set off a popular backlash,” according to the US daily, as anti-American protest rallies still continue in many Muslim countries in reaction to US justification of the film’s release under the pretext of its free-speech rights, ignoring clear exceptions to the constitutional right that, for example, prohibits the use of the right to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theatre.
US officials originally described the Benghazi incident as “spontaneous” but later claimed that it was an act of terrorism with links to al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile on Friday, the same daily emphasized in a report that US fears about lack of security for Americans in Libya have kept FBI intelligence agents and investigators from visiting the US consulate in Benghazi, forcing them to attempt to piece together the circumstances of the deadly attack on the diplomatic post from over 400 miles away in Tripoli.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A man purported to be a filmmaker involved with the anti-Islam video sparking violent unrest in the Middle East and North Africa was escorted by deputies from his Cerritos, Calif., home shortly after midnight Saturday morning, NBCLosAngeles.com reported.
Media and law enforcement had been staking out the home at the end of a cul de sac in the Southern California city for about 48 hours when Nakoula Besseley Nakoula emerged wearing a coat, hat, scarf and glasses.
L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed to NBCLA that Nakoula, 55, was taken to the Cerritos sheriff’s station for interviewing by federal probation officers aimed at determining whether he violated the terms of his 5-year probation by uploading a video to the Internet.
"We are in an assist mode," he said.
Whitmore added that Nakoula, who has denied involvement in the film in a phone call to his Coptic Christian bishop, agreed to the interview prior to the deputies arriving at his home, that the move was "entirely voluntary" and the man was "very cooperative."
Deputies pulled up to the home around midnight, according to witnesses. The group left the home through the side gate because the front door was not working, Whitmore said. NBCLA went to the home earlier this week and saw the front door was missing a knob.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: NBC NEWS
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Iran indicated on Monday it might allow diplomats visiting Tehran for this week's Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit to go to the Parchin military base, which U.N. nuclear experts say may have been used for nuclear-related explosives tests.
When asked about the possibility, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhoundzadeh said: "Such a visit is not customary in such meetings...However at the discretion of authorities, Iran would be ready for such a visit," the Iranian government-linked news agency Young Journalists Club reported.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A missile launched from a U.S. drone struck a suspected militant hideout in a tribal region in northern Pakistan where allies of a powerful warlord were gathered Saturday, killing five of his supporters, Pakistani officials said.
The strike in North Waziristan against allies of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a militant commander whose forces frequently target U.S. and other NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan, comes amid speculation over whether Pakistan will launch an operation against militants in the tribal region.
The U.S. has pushed Pakistan repeatedly to take such a step and earlier this week U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told The Associated Press that Pakistan was preparing an operation targeting the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan.
Pakistan has been reluctant to undertake an offensive there, saying its military is already overtaxed by fighting in other tribal areas and parts of Pakistan. But many in the U.S. believe Pakistan does not want to upset the many militant groups there such as the Haqqani network that could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces leave.
On Thursday, the top U.S. commander in the region, Gen. James Mattis, met with Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
During the meeting the Pakistani general repeated his government's stance that it would undertake an operation in North Waziristan only if it coincides with Pakistan's interests and not in response to outside pressure, according to a military press release.
Pakistan's foreign ministry condemned the latest drone attack.
"Pakistan has consistently maintained that these attacks are a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and are in contravention of international law," the ministry said in a statement.
Drone attacks are very unpopular in Pakistan, where they are seen as a violation of the country's sovereignty and responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. The U.S. maintains the targeted strikes are directed against militants and necessary to combat groups like al-Qaida.
Some Uzbek foreign fighters were among the dead in Saturday's strike, according to two Pakistan intelligence officials. Three people were also wounded, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
Meanwhile, five security officials died during a suicide bombing on a checkpoint in southern Pakistan.
Spokesman Murtaza Baig said the attacker detonated his explosives early on Saturday after he was stopped at the checkpoint in a Quetta suburb. The killed troops were members of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps.
Baluchistan province and its capital, Quetta, have been the scene of an insurgency by Baluch nationalists who are demanding greater rights and share from the income generated from gas and minerals extracted from the province. Various Baluch groups are blamed for attacks on the province's security forces and are suspected of targeting other ethnic groups in the region.
Islamist Taliban militants and the extremist group Lashker-e-Jhangvi are also active in the province.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Toronto police have found what they believe to be a body part in Scarborough that may have links to human remains found in Mississauga.
Police received a call just after 1 p.m. Saturday after a suspected body part was discovered near Kennedy Rd. and Bonis Ave., north of Sheppard Ave E., said Staff Sgt. Keith Smith.
While police believe it is a body part, it’s not yet confirmed that the remains are human, he said.
Peel Regional Police said their homicide and missing persons bureau was contacted by Toronto police about a “suspicious” discovery. However, it is not yet clear if the discovery is connected to the body parts investigation in Mississauga, where a human foot, head and hands were found in and around the Credit River.
More than half a dozen police cars blocked off Kennedy Rd. and Cardwell Ave. Saturday as officers scoured the banks of a creek that flows under Cardwell Ave. The forensic identification unit, marine unit and the coroner were at the scene and access to the creek on the south side of Cardwell was also closed off.
Cameron Janes said he came across the remains when he was looking for golf balls along the edge of the creek. When he noticed bones sticking out, he took two pictures with his cellphone and rushed up the bank to call 911.
“The smell was unbelievable and there were flies all over it,” said Janes.
“It just looked like it had been cut with a hacksaw.”
Janes found what he thinks is a part of a human leg about 1.5 metres in front of where the creek runs under Cardwell Ave.
It was found on a rock at the edge of the creek, he said.
“The stains on the rocks just made it look like it had been there a while,” said Janes.
Police came immediately and taped off the area, he said.
At about 7:45 p.m., police set up floodlights on Cardwell over the small ravine where Janes made his gruesome discovery. More lights were hooked up down along the creekbed.
West Highland Creek flows through the small wooded area from the nearby Tam O’Shanter golf course.
On Saturday afternoon, an evidence marker sat beside what appeared to be a baseball-sized chunk of bone uphill from where Janes made his discovery, behind a row of townhouses.
Residents wandered over to the edge of the police tape to see what was going on.
“I can’t believe this, things like this never used to happen,” said one man.
Elizabeth Kinsman, general manager of the condo complex that backs onto the creek, said she hasn’t heard of anything strange occurring in the area.
“I think they’re more curious than anything,” said Kinsman. “This is a really quiet neighbourhood . . . I think people are more surprised than anything.”
Police stopped the search after dark Saturday but kept the area cordoned off and officers and forensics remained on scene. Police said they would continue the investigation at daylight Sunday.
Toronto police spokesperson Const. Wendy Drummond said Saturday night that police were waiting for results from the coroner and would provide more information as it became available.
“It’s unreal when it happens in your backyard,” said Eddie Muise, who lives nearby. “I walk by here at all times of night.”
“I just hope they come to some solution, all of us will be happier then,” he added.
In Mississauga, Peel police are still combing the area along the Credit River after several body parts were found in the last few days.
“Our priority is still to ID the victim, and from there we can continue with this investigation,” said Peel police Const. George Tudos. “But we are looking at all missing persons cases within our jurisdiction and within others too.”
Police are continuing to search for other body parts in Hewick Meadows Park, with ground crews, a marine unit, and cadaver dogs on scene. Tudos said police have expanded the proximity of the search as a result of the recent discovery, but not by much.
“This is a very large area here and we’re not going to jump around from area to area depending on what gets found,” he said. There is no time frame for when police will end the search.
A right foot was found by hikers in the park on Wednesday and police found a severed head Thursday. On Friday, two hands were found in the river.
Investigators believe the remains are female because the foot had yellow painted toes. Police said the body parts have been in the water for some time, and are heavily decomposed. As a result the person’s age and ethnicity aren’t clear.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Spanish police have arrested three suspected members of al-Qaeda in the southern provinces of Cadiz and Ciudad Real.
In a news conference on Thursday, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, the interior minister, said: "There is a clear indication that those arrested could have been planning an attack in Spain or in Europe."
The suspects were identified as a Russian, a Chechen and a Turk and were in the possession of explosives and poison when they were arrested, the ministry said.
Fernandez Diaz said one of the two arrested near Ciudad Real was a senior al-Qaeda operative who had extensive experience in bombmaking.
He said that the operation was conducted with the help of other international police forces, and that the explosive material was being analysed.
Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips, reporting from Madrid, said that the interior ministry were not offering any more details at this point "but they are satisfied by the arrests and discovery of explosives".
"They believe that one of the suspects arrested is a senior operative in al-Qaeda and is considered a big catch, and there is a lot of satisftication with these arrests.
"It is clear that authorities see this as the biggest breakthrough since the bombings in Madrid in 2004."
The attacks on the capital's train system eight years ago left 191 people dead and 1,800 wounded.
No details were given on how much material was found on Thursday, though the minister said it was enough to blow up a bus.
"The western world faces a global threat from the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda," Fernandez Diaz said.
"Spain does not suffer more or less of a threat than the entire western world. I want this to be clear.
"What is clear is that at the level that it is a global threat, the intelligence services and police in the West, those who together make up our allies, are working very closely together."
Two of the suspects were travelling in a bus towards France when they were arrested in a layby at Valdepenas by a police special operations group, according Spain's El Pais newspaper.
The Turkish man was reportedly arrested in a flat near La Linea de la Concepion where the group were allegedly storing explosives.
They will appear soon before an investigating magistrate at the National Court in Madrid and be detained while the judge studies the case and decides on possible charges.
That process could take anywhere from days to months, and authorities are not likely to release more details about the case until the judge finishes that work. —www.shafaqna.com/english