News Briefs – February 3, 2017


Air Force base: 1 killed, 1 injured in New Mexico training

A civilian contractor was killed and an Air Force service member injured in a training accident on a military range in southern New Mexico, Holloman Air Force Base officials said Feb 1.
The Jan. 31 accident involved members of a ground-control party struck as two F-16 jets used unspecified air-to-ground munitions at a range that’s part of the White Sands Missile Range complex near Holloman, base officials said in a statement.
Members of a ground-control party are controllers who provide guidance to military aircraft, including fighters attacking ground targets.
The statement said the injured service member was released from a hospital after treatment for unspecified injuries.
The identities of those involved were not immediately released, and officials say the incident is under investigation.
It was not immediately known what type of munitions was involved.
The F-16 first became operational in the late 1970s and is a multi-role fighter that can drop bombs, fire missiles and shoot cannon shells in missions that can include aerial combat and attacking ground targets. There are one- and two-seat versions.
The statement says the aircrafts are based at Holloman but belong to a unit, the 54th Fighter Group, that is part of the 56th Fighter Wing headquartered at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz. AP

U.S. provides armored trucks to Syrian rebels for Raqqa fight

The U.S. military says it has provided a small number of armored vehicles to Syrian fighters hoping to oust Islamic State militants from their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa.
Air Force Col. John Dorrian says the Guardian armored security vehicles will give the U.S.-backed Syrian Arab Coalition better protection from small arms fire and roadside bombs as coalition fighters close in on the city.
Syrian rebels have been moving toward Raqqa in a broader campaign to isolate and retake the city from IS. The coalition is part of the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, which the U.S. considers to be the most effective force against the militant group.
Dorrian said Feb. 1 the SDF is building up defensive positions near Tabqa Dam, about 25 miles outside Raqqa. AP

Ukraine, Russia trade accusations over Black Sea plane

Russia and Ukraine traded accusations Feb. 1 over an incident involving a Ukrainian military aircraft flying over a Russian-operated gas rig in the Black Sea.
Ukrainian presidential spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko said the aircraft was fired upon while flying near two offshore gas rigs Wednesday. He posted a picture on Facebook showing a hole in the plane but added that the crew was not hurt.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet rejected the claim. It said the Ukrainian plane made two “provocatively” low runs over the Russian rigs, and a security officer fired a flare gun four times to drive it away and prevent a crash. It said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that the flares posed no danger to the plane.
The Russian Defense Ministry later summoned Ukraine’s military attache in Moscow to lodge a formal protest against what it called the plane’s dangerous maneuvers.
The incident reflects the high tensions between the ex-Soviet neighbors following Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for a pro-Russia separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. It comes amid the worst fighting in months this week around Avdiivka, just north of the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
The rigs, which previously had belonged to Ukraine, have caused tensions for a long time. Ukraine has accused Russia of illegally seizing them and said it would demand compensation. AP

Petraeus says Trump order is blocking Iraqi general from US

Former CIA Director David Petraeus says President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees is blocking a senior Iraqi military official from traveling to the U.S. to meet with his American counterparts.
Petraeus was testifying Feb. 1 before the House Armed Services Committee.
He’s telling lawmakers that Gen. Talib al-Kenani, commander of Iraq’s counterterrorism forces, can’t meet in person with officers from U.S. Central Command. The command in Tampa, Fla., oversees U.S. military operations against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
Petraeus also says al-Kenani’s family lives in the United States because of threats they face in Iraq.
But Petraeus didn’t dispute the need for Trump’s order. He says the long-term effects of the policy will be determined by whatever changes are made to the immigration system. AP

Libya leader offers NATO sea access if it helps upgrade navy

Libya’s U.N.-backed prime minister said Feb. 1 NATO or European Union ships could be permitted to operate in Libyan waters alongside the national navy if those organizations help modernize his country’s vessels.
The European Union wants to secure U.N. and Libyan backing to move its anti-smuggling mission Operation Sophia into Libyan waters to help prevent migrants reaching Europe.
“If there is something to be carried out jointly between the Libyan navy and any other party that would be interested in extending a hand to the Libyan navy, that would be possible,” Prime Minister Fayez Serraj told reporters after talks in Brussels with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“Of course, we have to modernize our navy flotilla and enhance its capacities. NATO or any other friendly nation on a bilateral basis could extend a hand in this,” Serraj added.
Stoltenberg said that NATO stands ready to help Libya ensure security and strengthen its defense institutions.
“Looking to the future, we could offer advice on establishing a modern ministry of defense, a joint military staff, and security and intelligence services under civilian control,” he said.
“If requested, we could also support the efforts of the European Union to strengthen the Libyan coast guard and navy,” he added.
Serraj has struggled to consolidate his grip on power in a country split between rival governments, parliaments, and militias in eastern and western Libya. AP