November 25, 2015

National & World Briefs

Two dead in U.S. military helicopter crash in South

A U.S. military helicopter crashed in South Korea during a routine training mission Nov 23, killing both pilots on board, the U.S. Army and South Korean police said.

The AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed on a road in Wonju, about 80 miles east of Seoul, a Wonju police officer said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media about the accident.

Two bodies recovered from the helicopter were severely damaged and officials couldn’t immediately confirm their identities, the officer said. He said there were no reports of casualties on the ground.

The U.S. Army in South Korea later confirmed the crash, saying the cause of the accident was under investigation.

“We offer our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the families of the soldiers involved in this tragic incident,” Lt. Col. Mark Gillespie, deputy commander of 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, said in a U.S. Army statement.

It said the identities of the two pilots will be withheld pending notification of next of kin.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited unidentified officials as saying the helicopter may have hit high-voltage power lines or a nearby steel tower because wires were found near the crashed aircraft and the upper part of the tower was damaged.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as deterrence against possible aggression from North Korea. The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. AP

Turkish jets hit PKK targets in northern Iraq

Turkey’s military says fighter jets have bombed suspected Kurdish rebel targets in a new cross-border offensive in northern Iraq.

A military statement Nov. 21 said the overnight airstrikes hit suspected Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, hideouts, shelters and supply points in four areas of northern Iraq. Areas targeted included the Qandil mountains where the PKK’s leadership is based.

Separate raids were also conducted on PKK caves, shelters and weapon emplacements in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish Sirnak province, the military said.

Turkey has been striking PKK targets in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey since July, when violence between the rebels and Turkey’s security forces re-ignited, killing hundreds of people and derailing a fragile peace process. AP

New Mexico seeks comments on jet fuel cleanup plan

The New Mexico Environment Department has drafted a plan for 2016 that will guide cleanup of a massive plume of jet fuel at the edge of Albuquerque.

Cleanup began in earnest about two years ago. Tons of soil have been removed, and more than 16 million gallons of contamination have been extracted and treated since June.

The plan calls for the installation of more monitoring and extraction wells. The treatment system also would be expanded to 800 gallons per minute.

The public has through Jan. 15 to comment.

First detected in 1999, the leak at a fueling station at Kirtland Air Force Base was believed to have been seeping into the ground for decades. Estimates of the amount of fuel spilled have ranged from 6 million to 24 million gallons. AP

Shipyard to begin early negotiations with union

Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, and its largest union have begun negotiations aimed at getting a contract locked to help the shipyard’s bid to build Coast Guard cutters.

The shipbuilder told Machinists Union Local S6 that it wants to negotiate a contract by year’s end. Negotiations have been taking place this week at an offsite location.

The current contract expires on May 22 but the union has reserved the Augusta Civic Center for Dec. 13, for a contact vote if an agreement can be reached before then.

The shipyard is one of three finalists to build cutters for the Coast Guard. The others are non-union shipyards.

Writing in the Portland Press Herald, former shipyard presidents Bill Haggett and Dugan Shipway encouraged the parties to come together to secure the yard’s future. AP

Russian strategic bombers deal new strikes on IS

The Russian military says its strategic bombers have struck targets in Syria in a third straight day of a heavy bombing blitz.

Russia, which has conducted air campaign in Syria since Sept. 30, sharply raised its intensity this week on President Vladimir Putin’s orders.

Putin told the military to step up the bombing after the confirmation that the Russian plane crash in Egypt that killed all 224 people on board was downed by a bomb, which the Islamic State group said it had planted.

Col. Gen. Andrei Kartapolov said that long-range Tu-95, Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 bombers operating from Russian bases Nov 19 took part in raids against IS targets in Syria. They joined Russian war planes based at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s province of Latakia. AP

Estonia hosts NATO cyberdrill with focus on infected tablets

Thirty-three countries are attending NATO’s largest ever cyberdrill in Estonia, focusing on malware in tablets and how infected devices may compromise data privacy for staff of the world’s biggest military alliance.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert Hoar, who heads the drill, Nov. 19 said scenarios do not include “attacking or defending;” participants have instead been provided realistic “storylines” that must be solved.

The five-day Cyber Coalition 2015 exercise, held at the alliance’s cyber exercise range in Estonia’s second city, Tartu, mainly aims at enhancing NATO nations’ ability to work together in a crisis situation.

NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence — a think-tank and training facility — is based in Tallinn, the Estonian capital. It is the third time that the small Baltic nation is hosting such an event. AP

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