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NightWatch 20100518


For the Night of 18 May 2010

South Korea-North Korea: South Korea plans to blame North Korea formally for launching a torpedo that sank a South Korean patrol ship on 26 March, killing 46 sailors, according to unnamed U.S. and East Asian officials. The results of the investigation are to be announced on the 20th.

According to a report in Yonhap, the investigators found a serial number marked on torpedo propeller fragments collected from the site of the sinking, officials said Wednesday. The number was written in a font used in North Korea.

Investigators also found that traces of explosives found in the wreckage were identical in composition to propellant explosives contained in a stray North Korean torpedo that South Korea recovered from the southern coast seven years ago. The defense ministry, however, denied a media report that a Korean word was also written on the propeller pieces.

Experts from the United States, Britain and Australia working as part of an international team agreed to the assessment that a torpedo attack sank the Cheonan, officials said.

Thailand: Update. Thai troops and armored vehicles broke through barricades of tires and staves on Wednesday morning and recovered portions of the one square mile site occupied and fortified by the Red Shirts in the past month according to the Bangkok Post on 19 May. The Post report said Thai forces were continuing the operation to establish control of the entire area.

A government spokesman announced on the morning of the 19th that the ongoing operation by troops and police to end the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship rally will continue throughout the day. People were advised to avoid entering the area of operation. Disaster relief operation units have been put on alert and people who see fires and other incidents are to call the Bangkok emergency number.

According to The Nation, the death toll from the operations begun last Friday is 37 with 296 injured.

Afghanistan: In Kabul at least 20 people were killed and 47 wounded in a suicide blast in Kabul on 18 May, according to a national army officer, Tolo TV reported. At least five foreign nationals were among the dead. Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the attack occurred at 8:15 a.m. local time, and that the attacker was able to destroy five foreign vehicles and damage one more.

On the 19th a series of suicide attacks occurred at the gates of Bagram airbase, north of Kabul as part of an attempt to enter the base. A NATO spokesman said no anti-government fighters succeeded in gaining entry.

Comment: Every month this year to date, anti-government fighters have staged at least one sensational bombing attack such as that in Kabul and that at Bagram. These attacks are the centerpiece of monthly anti-government operations in that they always get international press attention and show the government or the Coalition are unable to protect themselves even in their most secure bases.

They are the Taliban's counterpoint to Coalition operations. Just as the Taliban cannot stand against Coalition operations, Coalition forces cannot stop the monthly bombings in Kabul. One of the key factors in these attacks is that they always have inside assistance. Their monthly regularity indicates the "infrastructure" supporting them is well-developed and should be vulnerable to disruption.

Russia-Ukraine: During his first state visit to Ukraine, Russian President Medvedev said he would welcome Ukraine in joining the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Reuters reported 18 May. He added that the CSTO is not the Warsaw Pact and that it does not need confrontation with NATO or other military blocs.

Ukraine's parliament passed a law on 18 May permitting foreign soldiers to participate in exercises in Ukraine. The Ukrainian news agency UNIAN listed the following exercises planned to be held this year:

- the Ukrainian-American military exercises Sea Breeze 2010 and Rapid Trident 2010;

- the joint Ukrainian-Polish-Canadian-Lithuanian exercise Maple Arch 2010;

- the multinational exercise Barrier 2010;

- the Light Avalanche 2010 exercise;

- the Ukrainian-Slovak exercise Slavs for Peace 2010;

- a Ukrainian-Romanian joint exercise;

- a Ukrainian-Belarusian joint exercise; and,

- the British-Polish-Ukrainian exercise Cossack Steppe 2010.

A strong NATO bias is obvious, reflecting Ukraine's move to prepare to join NATO under the Yushchenko administration. Under Yanukovych, the Russians and other CSTO members may be expected to join Belarus in adding to the list.

Russia-US-China-Iran: Russian authorities refused to confirm or deny a statement by the US Secretary of State that Russia backed new sanctions against Iran.

A Chinese official statement clarified that new sanctions would not interfere with legitimate trade, implying China backed some form of new sanctions, as stated by the Secretary.

Somalia: For the record. A Somaliland news service published that "reports reaching us from Bakool Region say hundreds of Ethiopian and heavily armed Somali forces with armoured vehicles recaptured Ceelbarde (aka Elberde) District of Bakool Region, southwestern Somalia from militia loyal to the Al-Shabaab Islamic Movement. These troops have reportedly seized the town without fierce resistance from Islamist groups who recently took over the control of the region. The exact number of casualties in the fighting remains unclear but sources say that the two sides confronted shortly and exchanged heavy weapons."

"The Ethiopian troops who were backing the pro-government forces are said to have set up military bases in the town including in the police station, the central jail of the town and other strategic areas. An eye-witness who declined to be named, has told Radio Gaalkacyo that Al-Shabaab Islamic Movement had started military manoeuvres and were planning to recapture the town from Ethiopian troops."

Ceelbarde District in southwest Somalia borders Ethiopia and is on the main road to Mogadishu

In a separate action, the Somaliland Press reported Ethiopian and Somaliland (one of the three autonomous/independent states of Somalia; regards itself as the successor to British Somaliland) troops had captured a town in west-central Somalia in the tri-border area of Ethiopia, Somaliland and Puntland. According to a local paper, Waaheen, Somaliland Defense Minister, Mr. Suleyman Warsame Guled told local press that troops from both countries have been deployed in a number of border towns including the town of Buhodle. The minister said the two troops would work together to maintain security in the region.

These are the most recent reports of operations by the Ethiopians since April. Ethiopian contingents apparently have created a buffer zone at key border crossing points just inside the Somali border. Reports on Somaliland military activity are infrequent.

End of NightWatch for 18 May.

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