Monday, August 31, 2009

AF supercomputer named after WWII codebreaker

AF supercomputer named after WWII codebreaker: "DAYTON, Ohio — A new Air Force supercomputer is named in honor of an Ohio man who was instrumental in cracking Nazi codes during World War II.The $2.2 million machine to be used by researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is called the ‘Desch.’ It will turn large amounts of radar surveillance data into three-dimensional video images that can observe an entire city and focus in close — on an individual lighting a cigarette, for example.Joe Desch, who died in 1987, was the designer of a computer that helped the Allies break the Nazis’ Enigma codes. Desch’s daughter, Debbie Anderson, planned to attend Monday’s unveiling of the supercomputer and says it would have fascinated her father, and he would have wanted to know exactly how it worked."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

KZO UAV in Kunduz

KZO UAV in Kunduz: "

The Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, has been operating the Kleinfluggerät für Zielortung (Small Aircraft for Target Acquisition, abbreviated KZO) UAV in Afghanistan for nearly four weeks. Three KZO systems are currently deployed at the Bundeswehrs provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, and have conducted some 25 missions.


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Bundeswehr photo


A KZO system consists of a ground control station, antenna vehicle, launch vehicle, recovery vehicle, and five UAVs. KZO has a greater range and better sensors than the Luna UAV the Bundeswehr has so far been operating in Afghanistan and can also take real-time infrared imagery for faster and better target acquisition day and night, according to the Bundeswehr.

Yesterday, five more KZO systems were delivered to the German army's reconnaissance force in Munster, Germany.


(Via Ares.)

The SecDef Is Coming. Look Busy

The SecDef Is Coming. Look Busy: "

Defense Secretary Bob Gates is at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant today. Bob Cox of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that new acquisition chief Ashton Carter will be there, too.

Colin Clark at DoDBuzz sees the trip - an unusual one for Gates - as a move to defend the jet. According to Clark, a major national newspaper has a critical story in the works. 

Our friend Philippe Grasset at riffs on Clarks theme, arguing that Gates has painted himself into a corner by depicting the F-22 as wasteful and unnecessary. Now, Grasset argues, the idea is taking hold that the F-22 was just the beginning of a war on all high-tech weapons. 

Gates, Grasset writes, 'will have to get people to accept the idea that all the arguments fired at the F-22 have no merit against the F-35, even though the F-35 looks like the F-22's brother in most of its faults, and may be worse in some. On lui souhaite bonne chance,' Grasset concludes. Translation: 'Good luck with that.'

Even independent analyst Loren Thompson is beginning to sound worried.  Its going to be an interesting month, with the engine war still raging and a reconvened Joint Estimating Team reviewing the progress of flight testing and development.

As Bob Cox reports, problems with the secondary power system of BF-1 have kept it grounded - and the goal is now to get BF-1 and BF-2 to Patuxent River during September, after which the careful build-down to vertical landing can start. Four JSF flight-test aircraft that should have flown by now (according to the schedule published in January) are still firmly on the tarmac. I wonder if all of them will be lined up neatly today for Gates and Carter to inspect.


(Via Ares.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blackwater tapped foreigners for CIA program

Blackwater tapped foreigners for CIA program: "WASHINGTON — When the CIA revived a plan to kill or capture terrorists in 2004, the agency turned to the well-connected security company then known as Blackwater USA.With Blackwater’s lucrative government security work and contacts arrayed in hot spots around the world, company officials offered the services of foreigners supposedly skilled at tracking terrorists in lawless regions and countries where the CIA had no working relationships with the government.

Blackwater told the CIA that it ‘could put people on the ground to provide the surveillance and support — all of the things you need to conduct an operation,’ a former senior CIA official familiar with the secret program told The Associated Press.But the CIA’s use of the private contractor as part of its now-abandoned plan to dispatch death squads skirted concerns now re-emerging with recent disclosures about Blackwater’s role.The former senior CIA official said he had doubts during his tenure about whether Blackwater’s foreign recruits had mastered the necessary skills to pull off such a high-stakes operation.

Blackwater’s later hiring of several senior CIA officials who were involved in or aware of the secret program, including one of the men who ran the operation, showed the blurred lines of using a private contractor for such a highly classified and dangerous project.While Blackwater won the government’s confidence by handling security and training operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2004 decision by CIA officials to entrust the North Carolina-based company with such a sensitive overseas operation struck some former agency officials as highly unusual.‘

The question remains: Why do we need Blackwater?’ said Charles Faddis, a former department chief at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center who retired in 2008 and was not involved in the secret program. ‘I remain mystified. This is quintessential CIA work. You wonder what it means that the CIA has to rely on Blackwater? Why are we still funding the CIA?’The former senior CIA official who had knowledge of the program explained that ‘you wouldn’t want to have American fingerprints on it.’The former official and several other current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information remains classified.Xe spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke did not respond to questions seeking comment. Blackwater altered its corporate name to Xe Services after a series of use-of-force controversies, including a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad by five company security guards that left 17 civilians dead.

The former senior CIA official said that close to a dozen Blackwater ‘surrogates’ were recruited to join the death squad program. The recruits, the former official said, were not told they were working for the CIA.

The official did not know how Blackwater found them.The program reportedly cost millions of dollars over an eight-year span. A precise figure is not available because of the agency’s classified budget.The operation had several lives under four successive CIA directors: George Tenet started the program during the Bush administration, but canceled it, another former CIA official said, because there were too many risks involved.The operation was revived under Tenet’s successor, Porter Goss, who ran the agency from 2004 to 2006.

Michael Hayden, who served from 2006 to 2009, downgraded the program to intelligence-gathering only. Leon Panetta, the current director, killed the operation in June.The former senior CIA official said that after the death squad project was revived under Goss in 2004, there were serious questions about whether Blackwater’s operatives had demonstrated the ability to conduct clandestine surveillance and maintain fictitious identities with credible-appearing faked documents.Their need to provide rock-solid cover stories was essential, the former official said, adding that they had to have a ‘damn good reason to be there.’

A spokesman for Goss declined comment.The former senior CIA official said that during his tenure it was unlikely that the Blackwater recruits would have been involved directly in the mechanics of the killings. Instead, they were learning how to spy on targets and operate discreetly.The trainees never got a chance to prove themselves. They were never provided a target and no operation was ever approved. CIA spokesman George Little said the program yielded no successes.The CIA started planning for its death squad project shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The agency wanted the ability to target terrorists at close range, providing an alternative to air strikes that ran the risk of accidentally killing civilians.Another former senior intelligence official said the use of Blackwater was not the only plan considered to kill or capture terrorists.Blackwater long has had a close and intertwined relationship with the CIA.

Several senior agency leaders have taken up positions with the company. Among them were J. Cofer Black, once the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who would have had operational involvement with the secret plan in the early 2000s. Others included Robert Richer, a former deputy director for operations, and Alvin B. Krongard, a former CIA executive director.Another Blackwater hire was Enrique ‘Ric’ Prado, a former operations chief at the Counterterrorism Center. Prado ran the death squad program when it was started up under Tenet, three former intelligence officials said.According to one former official, Jose A. Rodriquez Jr., who ran the CIA’s clandestine service and was instrumental in reviving the program, reached out to Prado, then working at Blackwater. T

he two men had previously worked together in Latin America and then at the Counterterrorism Center, the former officials said.After joining Blackwater, according to The New York Times, Prado was involved in the 2004 negotiations between Blackwater officials and the CIA over its involvement in the death squad operation. According to the Times report, Prado, who at one point was Blackwater’s vice president of special programs, worked with Erik Prince, Blackwater’s founder, to sign agreements with the CIA to participate in the program.Prado did not return messages left at his home or with his business partner, Joseph E. Fluet. The pair recently formed The Constellation Consulting Group, an international intelligence and security firm based in northern Virginia.At the time that Blackwater began working with the CIA on the death squad operation in 2004, the CIA had in place a long-standing policy mandating that senior officials leaving the agency could not go to work for private firms for a year after their departure.

In 2007, Hayden toughened requirements for the entire agency, mandating an 18-month hold on security clearances for all departing employees who leave prior to retirement.Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group in Washington, said ‘the revolving door is a very accepted practice’ between government and private industry, but added that ‘to be able to bring people in from the CIA, there is a possibility that it gives you a competitive advantage in receiving awards from that agency.’When Panetta terminated the CIA’s death squad program in June, he informed congressional intelligence committees about its existence in an emergency briefing.The House of Representatives Intelligence Committee is investigating whether the CIA broke the law by not quickly informing Congress about the secret program."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

E-3 damaged in landing at Nellis, no injuries

E-3 damaged in landing at Nellis, no injuries: "NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The Air Force says a plane was damaged while landing at Nellis Air Force Base but no one was injured.The aircraft, an E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system, was returning from a mission late Friday night when the problem occurred. The 32-person crew got out of the plane safely. Emergency responders extinguished a fire after the landing.An Air Force statement did not provide additional details. The Air Force plans an investigation.The aircraft is flown by the 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., according to a statement on the Nellis Air Force Base Web site."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Harriers - up close and personal.

Yours truly (and a few fellow aviation aficionados) found ourselves back out at Rick Husband/Amarillo Int. Airport again this morning to photograph the Harriers taking off.

Two more had flown in after dark so we were pleasantly surprised to see ten Harriers lining the tarmac on the Tac-Air ramp when we arrived.

All were from the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

They were heading back home after "blowing up Sierra Hotel India Tango" out in the desert ranges of Marine Air Ground Combat center at Twenty-Nine Palms, California.

According to several of the pilots we talked to (who graciously gave us the full nickel- tour and let us see these amazing aircraft up close) they had recently deployed back to the U.S. from Iraq and Afghanistan.

They had spent the night in Amarillo (after letting off some much deserved steam out at the Big Texan I hear) and were at the half-way point of their journey back home.

Friendly as all-get-out, the pilots let us tug on a flap, stroke a wing, examine the gun pods and basically drool over their cool rides. The only thing we couldn't do climb in the cockpit or take a ride.

Here's Dale Stanton taking the opportunity to see a harrier up close and personal:

You can kind of see me talking to one of the pilots in this photo by Dale Stanton.

One of the pilots talked to us for over 15 minutes, explaining all the mechanisms behind the mechanisms and said (although he loved his Harrier) he was very-much looking forward to his future ride, the F-35 that is if Obama didn't yank funding of the Harrier-like (but stealthy) Joint Strike Fighter.

There were two different types of Harriers on the tarmac, the McDonnell Douglas-BAe/Boeing AV-8B Harrier II (with a large Raytheon APG-65 digital radar in the nose) and the "Night Harrier" AV-8B Harrier II Plus with a targeting FLIR in the nose.

Here are comparison photos where you can really see the difference between the two types:

The Harrier II Plus (below) sports the new Raytheon APG-65 digital radar and thusly it kind it it looks like it has had a nose-job to resemble an F-18, you are right. Under the radome is the same radar that is currently fitted in the FA-18 Hornet.

While we were waiting for the harriers to take off we were treated to a totally unexpected free air-show of sorts.

For a normally quiet Saturday, the airport was bustling with activity with many pilots (obviously) taking advantage of the beautiful flying weather - coolish and clear.

An USAF SOF C-130 also spent the night and we got to see it depart.

Look closely and you can see visible vorteces coming off the propeller blades.

(click on the photo to enlarge it)

Next came this vintage and shiny BT-13 Vultee Valiant (which i've seen flying around Amarillo often) usually out or Tradewinds Airport.

Then we were treated to a gaggle of local day-fliers. The ramp started to take on the look of a traffic jam.

We couldn't help but spot this Beechcraft 55 Baron that looked like something Barbie would fly.

And then this "jolly good" FNJ Stearman taxied by looking mellow in bright yellow.

Finally the main event was upon us. The pilots spooled up the engines on their Harriers and began to roll out with each one of the pilots giving us a wave as they went by.

They taxied down past Amarillo's downtown skyline shimmering brightly in the background.

Here one taking off - wow what a roar!

Here's a couple by Frank Murphy. These two photos are geo-tagged so you can see exactly where they were taken at.

In closing - we all had a great time and enjoyed the winged-spectacle.

Special thanks to the Aces of MCAS Cherry Point for indulging the wishes of some airport bums.

Semper Fi!

-Steve Douglass

Friday, August 28, 2009

Navy E-6

There was also a NAVY E-6 (from Tinker) in the local pattern doing touch and gos today.

Harriers just passing through

I got a tip from a buddy of mine that some Marine Corp AV-8B Harriers were going to be dropping in and spending the night in Amarillo, so (being the aircraft buff I am) swung out to the airport and shot a few photos as they came in. I thing there was 11 total. If you are interested in seeing them yourself, be out at the airport and watch them leave ( sunrise -ish) and net some photos of these amazing aircraft yourself.

-Steve Douglass

Al Qaeda video urges militant support

Al Qaeda video urges militant support: "Al Qaeda's second-in-command called on Pakistanis to back Islamic militants in the country's tribal areas against what he called an ongoing assault by American 'crusaders' and the Pakistani army.



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Atta boy Chuck! : Yeager named to California Hall of Fame

Yeager named to California Hall of Fame: "SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager, who served in World War II and went on to be the first pilot to break the speed of sound, will be among the newest inductees to the California Hall of Fame.Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California first lady Maria Shriver unveiled the list of 2009 inductees on Tuesday. They said the latest 13 ‘embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.’The others are ‘Star Wars’ creator George Lucas, feisty football commentator John Madden, entertainer Carol Burnett, former Intel chief executive Andrew Grove, former Gov. Hiram Johnson, decathlete and philanthropist Rafer Johnson, industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, philanthropist and peace activist Joan Kroc, artist Fritz Scholder, author Danielle Steel, bodybuilder and Schwarzenegger mentor Joe Weider, and slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk.The nominees will be inducted in a Dec. 1 ceremony at the California Museum in Sacramento. Shriver started the program to honor artists, sports figures and others who’ve helped shape the state."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Ask A Spy: Talking About Sports

Better Luck Tomorrow

Better Luck Tomorrow: "

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. - A sudden and unexpected onset of bad weather over Launch Complex 39A here caused NASA to scrub its first attempt to launch space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-128 to the International Space Station.

Although forecasts originally called for an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for launch, the situation rapidly deteriorated as the scheduled 1:36 a.m. EDT Aug. 25 liftoff time neared. A storm cell cropped up directly over the launch site, pouring rain on the orbiter and creating lightning strikes within five nautical miles of the pad.

Numerous weather constraints were violated concerning cloud cover, lightning potential and flight-through-precipitation. Some of those constraints were lifted shortly before the launch window, but conditions didn’t improve in time to allow a flight.

The shuttle team will try to launch Discovery again early Wednesday morning, at 1:10:22 a.m. EDT, when forecasters estimate a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions for liftoff. If that attempt also is scrubbed, the team will stand down for 24 hours before trying again.

There were no major technical problems with Discovery that would have precluded a launch. The Final Inspection Team expressed brief concern about an ice formation about 4.5 inches long on the liquid hydrogen T-zero umbilical, but it was determined not to be a problem.


(Via On Space.)

U.S. Researchers: Russian Military ''Plagued''

U.S. Researchers: Russian Military ''Plagued'': "Russian media and military leaders are widely lamenting the state of military following last years' Georgia invasion"

(Via Defense Channel.)

Stealthy Sukhois

Stealthy Sukhois: "

Talking about stealth in relation to the Sukhoi Su-27 and its extended family, including the new Su-35S, tends to cause people to fall over in fits of mirth. Like Chandler's Moose Malloy, the basic airplane looks about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.

But just about six years ago, in late 2003, Defense IQ managed to persuade a team from the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Electromagnetics (ITAE), part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, to present at a conference on stealth in London. I was a presenter - I don't recall any other journalists being present. It sounded as if the paper was going to be some kind of theoretical snorefest and I didn't expect much from it.

I was wrong. 

The ITAE researchers produced a highly detailed paper showing how the institute had developed radar cross-section (RCS) prediction software, test facilities for measuring the RCS of real aircraft, and a variety of RCS-reduction materials, all with the Su-27 family as the main application. One illustration showed an RCS test on Bort (fuselage number) 708, one of the Su-27M prototypes that were precursors to the Su-35S:


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The invaluable Flateric has recently posted my full account here, together with some artwork from the paper. (Ignore the comments from the F-35 fans, who have a hard time with words of more than two syllables.) 

According to the paper, the ITAE researchers had found materials that solved the dominant problem in the Sukhoi design:  straight-through inlets to the compressor face, with no line-of-sight blockage. Rather than placing an absorber-treated blocker in front of the engine, as on the Super Hornet, ITAE developed a radar absorbent material (RAM) that could be applied to the first-stage compressor blades. The rest of the RAM suite included a metallic treated canopy and sprayed-on RAM coatings on the missiles. 

ITAE had also experimented with a plasma screen in front of the radar antenna. Details were few - it was possible that it was contained in some kind of dielectric plastic envelope - but it could be switched on and off in tens of microseconds, so that it could be turned off when the radar needed to operate and turned on at other times. Along with RCS-reduction treatments for the exhaust, it seemed less mature than the rest of the technology. 

One year later, the same presenter appeared at IQPCs conference. I asked him if any production aircraft had been modified, and he responded that 'about 100' Sukhois had received RCS-reduction mods. 

Of course, this by no means will render a Sukhoi invisible - and similar measures have been implemented on many aircraft, including F-16s (Have Glass I and II), the Super Hornet and new European fighters. But when you consider that the most recent versions carry a very serious jamming suite, the complexion of the issue changes.

Jamming and RCS reduction are highly synergistic. The 'burn-through' range - the point at which none of my jamming works because the jammer power is less than the scatter from the target - goes down much more quickly with lower RCS than the detection range.

Yes, there are 'home-on-jam' technologies that can be applied to missiles - but if the missiles computer has to match its wits with the agility of the jammer, its a more dicey proposition. New jammers with solid state directional transmitters and digital RF memory (DRFM), which allows you to parrot the incoming signal back in a nanosecond, can give anyone a hard time. 


(Via Ares.)

Su-35S Updated

Su-35S Updated: "

One reason that JSF fans react to Carlo Kopp and his merry band at Air Power Australia the way liberals react to Sarah Palin is that their open-source work on Russian systems is second to none. So this updated page on the Su-35S is worth a look.

APA compares the Su-35S upgrade process to the move from the F-15C/D to the F-15E, but I would say that this 'deep modernization' goes further than that. You almost have to look back to the 1950s and the creation of the B-52G/H and the General Dynamics F-106A. With new engines, new avionics and a fundamentally different flight control system, the Su-35S shares only a proven aerodynamic and structural shape with the earlier Su designs.


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You have to like that camouflage scheme, too, which is reminiscent of the 'dazzle' schemes applied to ships in 1914-18. Its monochrome because we dont see in color at long ranges;  it varies in shade so that parts of the aircraft will tend to merge into the background in almost any conditions, even against the ground;  and the random shapes will make it quite difficult to get an instant read on the jets attitude. This, by the way, is the second prototype, not yet equipped with the production types big wingtip ECM pods.

Also noteworthy - the newer video on the APA site continues to show the use of a long-range missile to target AWACS - and by extension other slow, vulnerable but essential aircraft like tankers or Global Hawks. It's not an in-service weapon - but neither is it that difficult to produce and it could introduce some hellishly complicated challenges into the combined campaign.


(Via Ares.)

Things To Come, Likely.

Things To Come, Likely.: "

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Weapon mock-ups loaded on the second Sukhoi Su-35 prototype on display at MAKS 2009 give an indication of the future air-to-surface weapons the aircraft could carry in Russian service.

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The aircraft, side number 902, was shown with fitted a variant of the Kh-38M family  (above, intake weapon station) of air-to-surface missiles being developed by Tactical Missile Corp. It was also carrying a Kh-35UE (below) extended range development of the Kh-35 (AS-20 Kayak) anti-ship missile.

The Kh-35UE is fitted with a new engine, smaller in length than the original turbojet, providing additional fuel space. The intake design has also been revised. The maximum range is extended to 260km (162.5 miles). The weapon is also claimed to be fitted with a dual mode seeker, providing both active-radar guidance and passive homing.

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The weapons package for the Su-35S for the Russian air force has yet to be concluded, but air force and industry officials suggest this is anticipated relatively soon. Both suggest the contract will include 'new' missile types.

Pictures Credit D.Barrie/AW&ST


(Via Ares.)

Young Gitmo prisoner back in Afghanistan

Young Gitmo prisoner back in Afghanistan: "SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A Guantanamo prisoner once charged with wounding two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter was back home in Afghanistan on Monday, months after a war crimes case against him unraveled when a military judge ruled his confession was coerced.Mohammed Jawad, one of the youngest people held at Guantanamo, was flown from the U.S. base in Cuba over the weekend and released to his family by Afghan authorities, said Air Force Maj. David Frakt, one of the military lawyers appointed by the Pentagon to defend the prisoner.Frakt told The Associated Press that Jawad, now about 21, hopes to go to school and ‘make up for lost time’ after nearly seven years in custody.The U.S. Department of Justice later issued a statement confirming the release, which was ordered by a federal judge in July.Justice Department officials have said the criminal investigation of Jawad is still open, but his transfer back to Afghanistan makes prosecution increasingly unlikely. The judge who ordered him released said the government’s case was an ‘outrage’ and ‘full of holes.’Attempted murder chargeJawad had been charged with attempted murder before the special military tribunals at Guantanamo, accused of throwing a grenade into a jeep carrying the two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their interpreter in Kabul in December 2002. The wounded soldiers had dozens of operations, and the interpreter lost sight in one eye as a result of the attack, authorities have said.The case was first complicated by doubts about Jawad’s age. His attorneys say family accounts suggest he was about 12 when he was arrested. The Pentagon said a bone scan shows Jawad was about 17.Last October, a military judge at Guantanamo threw out a confession by Jawad following his arrest. The judge found that Jawad initially denied throwing the grenade and only said he had done it after Afghan authorities threatened to kill him and his family if he didn’t confess.U.S. authorities said they would pursue a criminal investigation of Jawad but U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled in July that he was being held illegally and must be released.There are more than 200 prisoners at Guantanamo, which President Barack Obama has pledged to close in January."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Prosecutor to probe CIA interrogations

Prosecutor to probe CIA interrogations: "Attorney General Eric Holder has asked federal prosecutor John Durham to examine whether CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists were illegal, the Justice Department announced today. Meanwhile, President Obama has approved the establishment of a special unit of terrorist interrogators based out of the FBI, senior administration officials said.



Sunday, August 23, 2009

Taliban Vs Taliban/Dispute over who will be the next slain terrorist leader.

Photo shows supposed new Pakistan Taliban leader, Hakeemullah Mehsud
A senior Taliban commander has challenged Hakeemullah Mehsud's appointment as the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the leader of a powerful faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, claimed he has been selected to lead by Baitullah Mehsud, the group's former leader who is thought to have been killed in an Aug. 5 US Predator airstrike. Waliur made his statements in two interviews with the press over the past several days.

"Baitullah Mehsud has deputed the organization’s affairs to me two months back," Waliur told Geo News today.

On Saturday, Waliur claimed a new leader "would be chosen within five days" during an interview with the Associate Press. Waliur did not reference the shura meeting that reportedly appointed Hakeemulah and Baitullah's replacement.

Waliur's statements are at odds with Faqir Mohammed's pronouncement on Aug. 21 that Hakeemullah Mehsud was chosen to lead the Taliban after the shura majlis, or executive council, of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan met in Arakzai late last week. Faqir claimed the decision to appoint Hakeemullah as Baitullah's successor was unanimous among the 42 shura members present at the meeting.


Meanwhile in NEWS OF THE FUTURE: "Pakistan Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsudm killed in U.S. Predator strike.

New photo shows healthier Fidel Castro

New photo shows healthier Fidel Castro: "A new photo of ailing Communist leader Fidel Castro surfaced on Sunday -- the second in 10 days -- revealing a more healthy-looking man than in prior photos. Castro, who came to power in Cuba in 1959, has not appeared in public since he had abdominal surgery in 2006.




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