Afghanistan: three Americans and one Italian killed in separate attacks

US soldiers in Afghanistan

Three Nato soldiers and a civilian have been killed in two separate attacks in Afghanistan.

Two US soldiers and an American civilian were killed in Paktika when a man in an Afghan army uniform turned his weapon on them, according to a spokeswoman for Afghanistan’s Nato-led force. The attacker was killed in a shootout which also injured two US soldiers.

In western Afghanistan, an attacker threw explosives into an armoured vehicle, killing an Italian soldier and wounding three others.

The Italian defence ministry said the attack in Farah province came as the soldiers were returning to their base from training Afghan security forces.

The convoy of three armoured vehicles slowed down near a junction and an attacker ran up and threw an explosive device into the lead vehicle. The three wounded soldiers’ injuries were not life-threatening, the ministry said.

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, with a spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, claiming that the attacker was an 11-year-old boy.

The deaths on Saturday brought to 16 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this month. On Thursday, seven Georgian soldiers died in a lorry bombing at their base in the south.

Taliban insurgents have launched intense attacks across the country as Afghan forces take over most security responsibility before the majority of foreign troops withdraw next year.

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Russia Tests ‘Missile Defense Killer’

Kapustin Yar testing site (archive)

MOSCOW, June 7 (RIA Novosti) – The US missile defense system is no match for the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that Russia tested this week, a senior Russian official said Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defense industry, hailed Thursday’s tests as a success and dubbed the new ICBM a “missile defense killer.”

“Neither current nor future American missile defense systems will be able to prevent that missile from hitting a target dead on,” he said, during an event organized by the ruling United Russia party.

The Russian Defense Ministry was more modest in its appraisal of the test, carried out by the Strategic Missile Forces at the Kapustin Yar testing site, between Volgograd and Astrakhan, on Thursday.

“The test launch was a success as the [simulated] warhead hit a designated target within the set time frame,” said a Defense Ministry statement issued Thursday.

The US missile defense system in Europe, which NATO and the US say is aimed at countering threats from North Korea and Iran, has been a particular source of friction in US-Russian relations for a number of years.

Russia and NATO formally agreed to cooperate over the European missile defense system at the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, but talks foundered, in part over Russian demands for legal guarantees that the system would not target its strategic nuclear deterrent.

In mid-March, the US announced that it was modifying its planned missile defense deployment to Poland, dropping plans to station SM-3 IIB interceptors in the country by 2022.

Russian officials responded by saying that this did nothing to allay their concerns over US missile defense in Eastern Europe, and reiterated their demand for legally binding agreements guaranteeing that Russia’s strategic nuclear forces would not be targeted.

Although analysts were quick to interpret the US change in plan as a concession to Russia, possibly intended to pave the way for further bilateral talks on nuclear arms reduction, US officials repeatedly refuted this suggestion.

Speaking after a bilateral meeting with the Polish foreign minister on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the United States’ continued commitment to that element of the missile defense system.

“We are on track to deploy a missile defense site in Poland by 2018 as part of NATO’s modernized approach to our security,” Kerry said.

NATO to set up cyber-defence rapid reaction teams

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NATO defence ministers agreed Tuesday to set up rapid reaction teams to help defend the military alliance against a growing number of cyber-attacks, many of them blamed on China.

“In the progress report we have adopted today, we agreed to establish rapid reaction teams that can help protect NATO’s own systems,” alliance head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

This “cyber-defence capability should be fully operational by the autumn,” Rasmussen told a press conference.

“This is a first phase. A second phase would be to look into how the alliance can respond to requests from Allies who come under cyber-attack,” he said.

Rasmussen stressed that cyber-security — the defence of the electronics information systems at the heart of modern warfare — remained the responsibility of its 28 member states.

But “this is a serious challenge (which)… can have devastating consequences,” he said, adding that NATO suffered more than 2,500 attacks last year.

“An attack on one ally, if not dealt quickly, can affect us all.”

The cyber-security issue is top of the agenda for a two-day defence ministers’ meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, attending his first NATO meeting since taking office, on Saturday accused China of waging cyber-espionage against the US after an American report found evidence of a broad Chinese spying campaign against top US defence contractors and government agencies.

Poland rejoins NATO AGS programme

Poland has confirmed its intention to formally rejoin NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme as a core nation, with the alliance’s managing organisation now preparing the relevant documents for its reinclusion.

Warsaw was involved in the early stage of the AGS project, but in early 2009 decided to leave the collaborative effort, citing financial problems.

Announcing its decision following a 21 March meeting, Poland’s defence ministry says: “Joining AGS will be very significant for increasing Poland’s meaning and strengthening its position in NATO structures.”

It expects to re-enter the programme in early 2014, contributing 4.5% of the total AGS funds, or roughly €71 million ($93 million) until 2017.

Polish companies including Bumar Elektronika, Netline, Transbit and Wojskowy Instytut Lacznosci are expected to participate in the programme, providing radar equipment, component manufacturing and maintenance activities.

Eastern Afghanistan airstrike kills 10 children

Up to 12 civilians, including 10 children, are reported dead in the eastern Afghanistan airstrike by NATO forces.

April 7, 2013 11:34

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At least 10 children are among the dead following a NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan.

Seven suspected Taliban militants and at least five women were also killed in the airstrike yesterday, which followed a fierce weekend gunbattle with militants in the Kunar province, according to The Associated Press.

Reuters reported that 11 children died as a result of the strike.

Civilian deaths have long been a source of tension between international forces and the Afghan government, prompting President Hamid Karzai to ban his forces from requesting NATO airstrikes earlier this year.

The Interior Ministry made no mention of civilian casualties in yesterday’s incident.

But Wasifullah Wasify, a government official in Kunar province, told the AP a civilian home had been targeted, resulting in the deaths of women and children.

At least 10 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in the same area last February, BBC News reported.

Yesterday’s deaths came on the same day that a car bomb killed five Americans, including three US soldiers, a young diplomat and a US Defense Department contractor, in southern Afghanistan.