News Briefs – August 10, 2016


RAF helicopter catches fire after landing on Wales mountain

Britain’s defense ministry says a Royal Air Force training helicopter made an emergency landing on a mountain peak in Wales and then burst into flames.
The Ministry of Defense says all four people aboard the Griffin training helicopter got out safely after the aircraft developed a “technical issue” Aug. 9. It says that “subsequently the aircraft caught fire.”
Photos taken by hikers showed a thick plume of smoke rising from Yr Aran, a peak in the Snowdonia range in north Wales.
Police and the ambulance service said they were at the scene.
The mountains are close to RAF Valley, an air base where Prince William was posted between 2010 and 2013 as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue pilot. AP

Turkey: U.S. shouldn’t ‘sacrifice’ alliance over Muslim cleric

Turkey’s justice minister said Aug. 9 the United States would be sacrificing its alliance with Turkey to “a terrorist” if it were to refuse to extradite a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who the government says is behind the July 15 failed coup.
Bekir Bozdag also told the state-run Anadolu Agency that anti-American sentiment in Turkey is reaching “its peak” over the issue of cleric Fethullah Gulen’s return, and risks turning into hatred.
Turkey has branded Gulen’s movement a terror organization and wants him returned to Turkey to face trial. Washington has said it would need evidence of the cleric’s involvement, and says the regular extradition process must be allowed to take its course.
Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has denied involvement in the violent coup attempt that left more than 270 people dead.
European nations and human rights groups have expressed alarm over the scope of Turkey’s crackdown, triggering anger from Turkish officials who have complained of a lack of support for Turkey over the failed coup. AP

U.S. says more military transparency needed in South China Sea

The response from Beijing and others to an arbitration panel’s ruling invalidating China’s vast South China Sea maritime claims has brought no surprises, but much more military transparency is needed to reduce tensions in the region, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Aug. 9.
Adm. Scott Swift also criticized China-Russia joint naval exercises planned next month in the South China Sea, saying the choice of location was not conducive to “increasing the stability within the region.” He also said any decision by China to declare an air defense identification zone over the strategic water body would be “very destabilizing from a military perspective.”
Swift was visiting the northern Chinese port of Qingdao as part of efforts to build trust and understanding between the two navies, now locked in a protracted competition for primacy in East Asia, where the U.S. has traditionally been the dominant military power.
Attention has been fixed on the South China Sea since the July 12 ruling by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in a case brought by the Philippines. China refused to participate in the case or recognize the ruling, and strongly criticized the U.S. for encouraging its ally to pursue the matter.
Since then, Beijing has launched air patrols over the South China Sea, said it would consider declaring an air defense zone and vowed to continue work on man-made islands created from piling sand atop coral reefs in the highly contested Spratly group. AP

Japan FM protests to China over ships around disputed island

The Japanese foreign minister has summoned China’s ambassador to lodge a protest over the increased number of Chinese vessels in waters near disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The move by Fumio Kishida Aug. 9 comes as the number of Chinese coast guard ships around the islands has nearly quadrupled over the past few days.
China’s coast guard vessels routinely sail around the islands, usually two to four at a time. But since last weekend, the number surged to a fleet of 13, several of them armed, according to the Japanese coast guard.
Kishida told Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua that the ships must leave the area, saying their presence has escalated tensions.
China also claims Japan-controlled Senkaku islands and calls them the Diaoyu islands. AP

U.S. gives Lebanon $50 million of new military assistance

The United States has delivered $50 million worth of military assistance to Lebanon’s army to help it battle against Muslim extremists near the border with Syria.
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth H. Richard told reporters at Beirut’s port that the latest assistance is in “an entire ship full of military equipment.”
A U.S. Embassy statement said the shipment includes 50 armored Humvees, 40 Howitzers and over 1,000 tons of ammunition.
The U.S. has been speeding up delivery of ammunition to help Lebanon’s military combat jihadi groups near the border with Syria.
In March, Washington delivered three Huey II helicopters, raising to 10 the number of such U.S.-made aircraft in Lebanon’s fleet
Washington has provided more than $1 billion in military assistance to Lebanon since 2006. AP

France sells 30 Caracal military helicopters to Kuwait

France has agreed to sell 30 Caracal military helicopters to Kuwait as part of the countries’ strategic partnership.
France defense ministry said in a statement that the Aug. 9 deal is worth more than $1.1 billion.
France and Kuwait signed major defense deals in October last year.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said “with this decision, Kuwait further strengthens the strategic partnership that has been linking our two countries over several decades as we operate side by side in the fight against Daesh (the Islamic State group) in Iraq and Syria.” AP

Iraq receives a new batch of F-16 fighter jets from U.S.

The Iraqi air force has received a new batch of F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from the United States, bolstering the country’s fledging air force amid more than two years of fighting with the Islamic State group, a spokesman said Aug. 8 as attacks in and near Baghdad killed six people.
Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim, told The Associated Press that the new batch consisted of four fighter jets. Ibraim did not give more details or say when the next shipment will be delivered.
With the new arrivals, Iraq has now eight F16s in service, out of 36 fighter jets the U.S. agreed to sell to Baghdad.
Also Aug. 8, a bomb went off at an outdoor market in the town of Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad, killing four shoppers and wounding 11, a police officer said.
Two more civilians were killed in another bomb explosion in a commercial area in Baghdad’s western Eskan neighborhood. That attack also wounded eight people, another police officer said.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which often targets commercial areas and large gatherings.
Iraq has been going through its worst crisis since summer 2014 when IS militants captured much of the country’s north and the west, including the second-largest city of Mosul. Despite major ground loses since last year, IS still controls key areas.
Iraq heavily depended on aging Russian-made Sukhoi Su-25 jets. In 2014, the country received Sukhoi Su-25 jets from Russia and Iran to help combat IS. AP