Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is prepared to strike at international terrorist groups in whatever country that harbors them. His comments come days after Russian special forces stormed a Moscow theater where Chechen rebels took 750 hostages. The siege ended when Russian troops piped in an undisclosed gas that killed 115 civilians. Russian troops shot most of the Chechens dead. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow says the gas used was not a nerve gas as previously suspected, but an opiate which dulls the senses. Putin gave no hint of where he believes international support for Chechen rebels may be located, but Russia has in the past accused Islamic extremists of assisting the Chechen cause. Putin’s talk echoed that of President Bush, who has praised the Russian war in Chechnya. Last month, Putin threatened to launch preemptive strikes against Chechen fighters operating in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
British and American academics are warning the U.S. is developing a new generation of biological and chemical weapons that possibly violate international treaties. The Guardian of London reports today the Pentagon and British military are working on nonlethal weapons similar to the gas used by Russian forces to end last week’s siege in Moscow. The CIA is trying to copy a Soviet cluster bomb designed to disperse biological weapons. The Pentagon is attempting to build a bioweapon plant from commercially available materials. The U.S. claims the experiments are done for defensive purposes. We’ll be speaking with a University of California scientist about these issues in a minute.
A U.S. diplomat, Laurence Foley, was shot dead yesterday in Amman, Jordan. He was gunned down outside his house in what appeared to be the latest in a string of attacks against Western targets in the region. Journalist Robert Fisk writes in The Independent, “Amman is burning with anger at the United States and its threats against Iraq. More than half of Jordan’s population is Palestinian and America’s unconditional support for Ariel Sharon’s Israeli government has embittered many of them; demonstrators have often called for the end of Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel.”
The CIA has warned that U.S. counterterrorist operations around the world may not eliminate the threat of future attacks because they fail to address the root causes of terrorism. The CIA added that continued instability in Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are likely to fuel radicalism in the Muslim world. The assessment was made in a series of written answers to questions posed by members of Congress that were released to the general public yesterday.
The New York Times is reporting that the United States has quietly begun working with Iran to shut off the flow of illegal Iraqi oil in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. and allies have stationed an Australian warship inside Iraq’s territorial waters and have doubled the number of searches this year of ships in the Gulf. Iran, which President Bush has described as part of the “Axis of Evil,” has provided coastal units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as well as naval vessels.
A team of about 50 Israeli commandos have entered western Iraq to hunt for Scud missiles, this according to a report in the London Times. Israel claims the mission is needed to foil any preemptive attack by Iraq on Israel. The Times reports the Scud hunting is not the Israeli special forces’ first mission inside Iraq. The same unit has planned at least twice to assassinate Iraqi President Saddam Hussein near the town of Tikrit.
Japanese officials are reporting that North Korea has refused demands to scrap its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. and its allies have urged North Korea to disarm peacefully. But North Korea has been warning it is entitled to possess nuclear weapons and other more powerful weapons to defend itself against U.S. hostility.