News Briefs – October 24, 2016


Report: California soldiers must repay enlistment bonuses

Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Los Angeles Times reports the Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard eager to fill ranks and hit enlistment targets.
Faced with a shortage of troops at the height of the two wars, California Guard officials offered bonuses of $15,000 or more.
Soldiers say they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.
One former Army Captain says he refinanced his home mortgage to pay back his $25,000 reenlistment bonus.
The California Guard says it has to follow the law and collect the money. AP

U.S. military reports 2 strikes against extremists in Yemen

The U.S. military says it launched two attacks earlier this month in Yemen, killing eight people associated with the extremist group known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The U.S. considers the group to pose a significant threat of attacks on American interests.
A statement by U.S. Central Command says one U.S. airstrike on Oct. 6 killed two “terrorists” in a remote area of Yemen. A second strike Oct. 18 killed six more people in the same remote area. It did not identify those who were targeted.
Yemen is among several countries, including Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, where the U.S. military conducts strikes against al Qaeda and its affiliates as well as the Islamic State group. AP

Appeals court revives lawsuit by Abu Ghraib inmates

A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit against a military contractor filed by former inmates of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
The lawsuit, which has now been bounced between courts for eight years, had most recently been tossed out after a judge ruled the allegations could not be litigated in the judicial system. The judge reasoned that the lawsuit would improperly require second-guessing military leaders in a war zone.
On Oct. 21, though, the 4th Circuit appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled unanimously that any unlawful acts committed by contractors could be subject to judicial scrutiny. The court sent the case back to district court in Alexandria, Va., for further review.
The inmates say they were tortured during interrogations led by civilian contractors from Arlington-based CACI Premier Technology, Inc. AP

Russia denies Polish claim Egypt sold it warships for $1

Poland’s defense minister said he thinks Egypt has sold two French-made Mistral warships to Russia for the symbolic price of $1, a claim dismissed by the Russian military Oct. 21.
Antoni Macierewicz made the assertion during a parliamentary debate Oct. 20. He later told reporters he had the information “from good sources,” but did not reveal any other details.
On Oct. 21, Macierewicz added that “if Egypt would now withdraw from this operation, it would be a gain for world peace” and a good lesson for Russia.
France had originally built the two ships for Russia, but the sale was canceled after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ships were sold instead to Egypt.
Macierewicz’s comment comes amid strained ties between Warsaw and Paris due to Poland’s cancellation of a $3.5 billion deal to buy French-made military helicopters.
In Moscow, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov dismissed Macierewicz’s statements as “silliness” and “self-promotion.” AP

U.S. Navy destroyer conducts operation in South China Sea

The Defense Department says a U.S. Navy warship has conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea, where China and five other countries have competing territorial claims.
A department spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross, said the destroyer ship USS Decatur conducted the transit operation Friday near the Paracel Islands.
He said it was conducted “in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident.”
The U.S. Navy has periodically conducted such freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.
Ross said the operation “demonstrated that coastal states may not unlawfully restrict the navigation rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea” that all states are entitled to exercise under international law.
Vietnam, China and Taiwan all claim the Paracel islands, which are occupied by China. AP