Missing Libyan Jetliners Raise Fears Of Suicide Airliner Attacks

Islamist militias in Libya took control of nearly a dozen commercial jetliners last month, and western intelligence agencies recently issued a warning that the jets could be used in terrorist attacks across North Africa.

Intelligence reports of the stolen jetliners were distributed within the U.S. government over the past two weeks and included a warning that one or more of the aircraft could be used in an attack later this month on the date marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against New York and Washington, said U.S. officials familiar with the reports.

“There are a number of commercial airliners in Libya that are missing,” said one official. “We found out on September 11 what can happen with hijacked planes.”

The official said the aircraft are a serious counterterrorism concern because reports of terrorist control over the Libyan airliners come three weeks before the 13th anniversary of 9/11 attacks and the second anniversary of the Libyan terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the Benghazi attack, which the Obama administration initially said was the result of a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video.

A senior State Department counterterrorism official declined to comment on reports of the stolen jetliners.

A second State department official sought to downplay the reports. “We can’t confirm that,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials said Egyptian military forces appear to be preparing to intervene in Libya to prevent the country from becoming a failed state run by terrorists, many with ties to al Qaeda.

Libya remains an oil-rich state and if the country is taken over completely by Islamist extremists, U.S. counterterrorism officials believe it will become another terrorist safe haven in the region.

The officials said U.S. intelligence agencies have not confirmed the aircraft theft following the takeover of Tripoli International Airport in late August, and are attempting to locate all aircraft owned by two Libyan state-owned airline companies, as security in the country continued to deteriorate amid fighting between Islamists and anti-Islamist militias.

Video surfaced on Sunday showing armed fighters from the Islamist militia group Libyan Dawn partying inside a captured U.S. diplomatic compound in Tripoli. The footage showed one fighter diving into a pool from a second-story balcony at the facility.

Tripoli airport and at least seven aircraft were reported damaged during fighting that began in July. Photos of the airport in the aftermath showed a number of damaged aircraft. The airport has been closed since mid-July.

The state-owned Libyan Airlines fleet until this summer included 14 passenger and cargo jetliners, including seven Airbus 320s, one Airbus 330, two French ATR-42 turboprop aircraft, and four Bombardier CJR-900s. Libyan state-owned Afriqiyah Airways fleet is made up of 13 aircraft, including three Airbus 319s, seven Airbus 320s, two Airbus 330s, and one Airbus 340.

The aircraft were reportedly taken in late August following the takeover of Tripoli International Airport, located about 20 miles south of the capital, by Libyan Dawn.

Al Jazeera television reported in late August that western intelligence reports had warned of terror threats to the region from 11 stolen commercial jets.

In response, Tunisia stopped flights from other Libyan airports at Tripoli, Sirte, and Misrata over concerns that jets from those airports could be on suicide missions.

Egypt’s government also halted flights to and from Libya.

Military forces in North Africa, including those from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt have been placed on heightened alert as a result of intelligence warning of the stolen aircraft.

Egyptian military jets reportedly have conducted strikes inside Libya against Libyan Dawn positions recently, and U.S. officials said there are signs a larger Egyptian military incursion is being planned.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi was quoted as denying Egyptian air strikes into Libya have taken place but suggested that military action is being considered.

Secretary of State John Kerry last week told his Egyptian counterpart that the United States would speed up the delivery of Apache attack helicopters, although it is not clear the Apaches would be used in any Libyan operations.

Egypt’s military-backed government appears to be seeking a more significant role in regional security after the Obama administration helped engineer the ouster of Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi in 2011. Since then, the Obama administration, through its announced policy of “leading from behind,” has stood by while Libya gradually has spiraled into chaos.

The Libyan government announced Sunday that it no longer controlled the capital of Tripoli.

“We announce that the majority of the ministries, institutions, and associations in the capital Tripoli are no longer under its control,” a government statement said.

Libya’s parliament in August declared both Ansar al Sharia and Libyan Dawn as terrorist organizations working to overthrow the government.

Ansar al Sharia, which is based in Benghazi, recently publicized on social media that it has obtained large numbers of more sophisticated weapons, including SA-6 surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, assault rifles, and armored vehicles. The group is closely aligned with al Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria.

Abderrahmane Mekkaoui, a Moroccan military expert, told Al Jazeera television, which first reported the airline theft Aug. 21, the alert regarding the stolen jetliners was preventive and covers the region from Cairo to Lagos Nigeria.

Mekkaoui said the jets being held by the Libyan group called Masked Men Brigade that was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in December.

The Masked Men Brigade is linked to al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia—the group behind the Benghazi terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2012.

Until the Libya Dawn takeover of the airport, announced Aug. 24, two other militia groups, known as Al Qaqa and Al Sawa controlled the airport and all aircraft belonging to Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways.

Mekkaoui said “credible intelligence” reports given to states in the region indicated the Masked Men Brigade “is plotting to use the planes in attacks on a Maghreb state” on the 9/11 anniversary.

Counterterrorism expert Sebastian Gorka said that if the theft is confirmed, the stolen aircraft could be used in at least two ways.

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Journalist Steven Sotloff Has Been Beheaded By ISIS

An Internet video purports to show the beheading of US reporter Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State extremist group.

The global terror intelligence firm SITE first reported the release of the 2-minute video, titled “A Second Message to America,” in which Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist, speaks to the camera before a cloaked Islamic State fighter begins to decapitate him.

“I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now and why I am appearing,” Sotloff said under apparent duress. “Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for preservation of American lives and interests, so why is it that I am paying the price of your interference with my life?”

The video then cuts to the masked militant warning that as long as U.S. missiles “continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.” He also threatens the life of British captive David Cawthorne Haines.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com“I’m back, Obama,” said the left-handed executioner with a British accent who appears to be the same man who killed Foley. “And I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State.”

The gruesome video then shows Sotloff’s severed head lying next to his body.

Government officials could not immediately verify the authenticity of the video. But Barak Barfi, a spokesman for the Sotloff family, indicated the family fears the worst.

“The family knows of this horrific tragedy and is grieving privately,” Barfi told The Associated Press. “There will be no public comment from the family during this difficult time.”

The grim video comes just days after Sotloff’s mother, Shirley, directly addressed the leader of the Islamic State last week, saying her son shouldn’t pay for U.S. government actions in the Middle East and that he cared about the weak and oppressed as a journalist.

“I want what every mother wants, to live to see her children’s children,” she said last week. “I plead with you to grant me this.”

Shirley Sotloff cited by name the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has described himself as a caliph intending to lead the Muslim world. She had asked him to show mercy and follow the example of the prophet Muhammad in protecting people of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.

Sotloff was last seen in August 2013 in Syria. He was recently threatened with death by the militants on a video unless the U.S. stopped airstrikes on the group in Iraq. The same video showed the beheading of fellow American journalist James Foley, 45.

Several U.S. officials, including U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., have said they were working behind the scenes to find out more about Sotloff and try to secure his release.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest could not confirm the reports when asked about the video at Tuesday’s press briefing. He noted the administration has been monitoring his situation carefully since threats were first made.

“The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to try and rescue Mr. Sotloff,” he said, adding “thoughts and prayers” are with the family.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the intelligence community will work “as quickly as possible” to determine the video’s authenticity.

“If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act taking the life of another innocent American citizen,” she told reporters.

Pressed by Fox News, Psaki would not say whether this would constitute an act of war. She said the prior execution of journalist James Foley was a “horrific terrorist act,” and was a “motivating” factor for creating a coalition to address the Islamic State.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council confirmed that the agency had seen the purported video.

“The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity,” spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. “If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available.”

At University of Central Florida, where Sotloff studied journalism from 2002 to 2004, President John Hitt said the school is mourning the loss.

“Our UCF family mourns Steven’s death, and we join millions of people around the world who are outraged at this despicable and unjustifiable act,” said Hitt.

[H/T Fox News]

Obama Is The Man Who Doesn’t WANT To Have A Plan

Obama isn’t cautious about ISIS, he’s annoyed. He has stuff he wants to do to the United States, and he was really enjoying the luxurious perks of the Presidency. He wants to stand in front of adoring audiences – he prefers either students, or people who paid tens of thousands of dollars to hear him speak – and spout the same tied old lines he’s been using since 2008, to thunderous applause.

He expects a significant return on investment when he sinks political capital into something. When he makes what looks like a sound investment and it doesn’t work out, he gets very crabby. Remember how angry he was after his seemingly slam-dunk push for gun control after the Newtown horror blew up in his face? That’s what Angry Barack looks like, not the mildly distracted man who dropped off a quick statement on the murder of James Foley, passively hoped that other people would get rid of ISIS for them (or they’d just go away, because they have no place in the 21st century) and was smiling and laughing merrily on the golf course less than half an hour later.

Obama’s not going to invest his energy in something that offers him no domestic political gain, no further accumulation of power. He wanted to write Iraq off as a Bush mess he cleaned up. The prospect of going back into battle there and validating Bush frightens and nauseates him. It’s a guaranteed political loser domestically, as he’ll receive little applause from serious people who remember how Obama stood by and let the Islamic State take root… and he’s certainly not going to get any love from the silly people who think global terrorism will go away, if we ignore it.

Fox News reports today that Obama was “given detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of the Islamic state as part of his daily briefing for at least a year before the group seized large swaths of territory over the summer,” according to leaks from Pentagon officials, who are tired of Obama blaming them for his blunders. That means Obama had been warned about ISIS before he famously dismissed them as the “junior varsity” league of al-Qaeda. He ignored the warnings because he doesn’t care about such threats, and has no idea how to deal with them. He rolled the dice and hoped ISIS would be entirely occupied with fighting the Assad regime in Syria for the remainder of his term in office. He crapped out, and now he’s got no idea what to do next, so he’s falling back on what he knows best: manipulating U.S. media coverage to keep his Low Information Voter base quiescent.

The Washington Post ran a remarkable editorial this weekend that discussed Obama’s “disturbing” performance, essentially complaining that he’s lost touch with reality, and spends too much time “explaining what the United States cannot do and cannot afford.” That’s a striking difference from the way Obama talks when he’s got a juicy new domestic power grab in mind – there’s nothing government can’t do on those occasions, and Uncle Sam’s fat bankroll is limitless. Those domestic initiatives are profitable for Obama – they pay off in social engineering, vote-buying, and “historic” legacy achievements. That’s the stuff he wants to do. On foreign policy, he’s going to double down on his bet that things won’t get much worse in Russia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, China or the rest of the hot spots if he mostly ignores them. As long as nothing awful happens within the borders of the United States, he thinks he’ll win that bet. And if he craps out again… well, there was no Plan A or Plan B, so there sure as hell isn’t a Plan C.

[H/T Breitbart]