Category Archives: Conflict In Context – Field Notes

Write from experience, and experience only… Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost – Henry James, American-born writer (1843-1916)

Epstein Suicide Watch

Comparisons between Epstein’s apparent suicide and Kennedy-Ruby assassinations are already being made. With the man who knew too much now dead could we be left with little more than conspiracy theories? What happened to Epstein’s suicide watch? Where were the wardens? Initially, CNN reported he died of cardiac arrest. Who might have given him or administered the drug that induced that? The NYT later reported he he actually hung himself. Why was he taken off suicide watch when he tried to hang himself just days ago? My first thought, who paid off the wardens? His death came one day news organizations published a cache of documents describing how he operated the equivalent of a sexual pyramid scheme. Hopefully, these documents will focus now on the remaining alleged perps, including Ghislaine Maxwell, British heiress and daughter of former media mogul, Robert Maxwell, who allegedly procured young girls for Epstein and friends. Maxwell is nowhere to be found at the moment. I’m sure Epstein’s only known client, Lesli Wexner, knows a lot, though he didn’t notice that someone – Epstein – had essentially stolen his Manhattan townhouse, the largest and most expensive residence in NYC. Wexner, who bought Victoria’s Secret when it was a little known lingerie store chain in the 80s. He is now worth $4.6 billion (the richest man in Ohio) and owns one of the largest “yachts” in the world. A young woman accused Epstein of molesting her in Wexner’s Ohio home. Last but not least is Alan Derschowitz, famous “professor emeritus at Harvard, who’s also accused of molesting Virginia Roberts Giuffre when she was 16. “The Dersh” who helped broker Epstein’s 2007 sweetheart plea deal has strongly denied sexual contact with Giuffre. Giuffre also claimed Brit Royal Prince Andrew molested her when she was 17. All the allegations about Prince Andrew were struck from the court record in 2015 after being described as “immaterial and impertinent” by the judge, according to @telegraph (Read lots more by Katy Baker @thedailybeast ) #jeffreyepstein #suicide #ghislainemaxwell #lesliewexner #victoriassecret #GhislaineMaxwell #sextraffickingawareness #sexsells

Rise of China’s private armies 

Is trouble brewing as Beijing uses security firms to protect its people abroad, asks Odil Gafarov

Special forces of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – which links China and Russia with Central Asian countries and India and Pakistan – take part in joint military excercises

The increasing use of private security companies and military contractors has changed the conduct of war in recent years. In Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and other fault lines across the world, small teams of elite operators – in units consisting of 15 men or fewer – are outperforming conventional troops. Increasingly arms and power are held in private hands, instead of the state. As a result, the authority of the state can be undermined and trust between governments broken. 

Central Asia is now emerging as a front line for operations by private security companies. The region will be a central transport conduit for China’s regional development project, the Belt and Road Initiative, which promises to revive connections between the East and West. Increased interest by Chinese private security companies in the region, if unregulated, would damage regional stability and cooperation.

Chinese private security companies grew up after 11 Chinese builders working on a World Bank project in Afghanistan were shot dead by the Taliban in 2004. Before 2006, when a new external security affairs department was established, Chinese embassies had little back-up if citizens were attacked or needed to be evacuated. 

While the Chinese government has been hesitant to send police forces to protect its interests abroad, China’s expanding footprint in Africa and other unstable areas around the world has spurred demand for private security. Between 2006 and 2010, the government had to rescue 6,000 citizens from countries including East Timor, Chad, Lebanon, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Thailand and Haiti. In 2011, conditions in Libya and Egypt meant 48,000 Chinese citizens had to be evacuated.

Mounting costs and obstacles in coordinating evacuation efforts may have led the Chinese government to re-evaluate its security strategy for people working abroad. Early experiments with hiring western security contractors were disappointing, which only served to increase the demand for homegrown security firms. Importantly, the impetus to create these Chinese security firms was driven by market incentives, not political mandate. 

Beijing Security Service and Hua Xin Zhong An Security Service, two of the first security enterprises to spring up, offered basic security provision for clients operating in mainland China, with limited interests in Africa. By 2010, a new breed of security firm had emerged offering highly trained special operations forces to protect Chinese personnel in state-owned Chinese oil and gas companies or banks working in such places as Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. These included Shandong Huawei Security Group, the first Chinese security firm to open an overseas office, and DeWe Security Service, a firm operating in 37 countries that played a vital role in evacuations from African war zones. Boutique security firms such as Ding Tai An Yuan Security have found new markets addressing specific security challenges unique to the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Africa has been the main region of operation for these Chinese firms, but as the Belt and Road project expands through Central Asia, the energy and resources of those firms will probably be redirected there.

Hybrid species on the march

Over the past 15 years, the Chinese private security industry has modernized the services offered to clients, who remain mostly Chinese. Until 2014, these firms were all funded and manned by Chinese nationals. The emergence of Frontier Services Group (FSG) has seen a radical change. Headed by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL and founder of Blackwater, this Hong Kong-based company is the first Chinese-funded, American-operated private security group. The organization, previously known as DVN (Holdings) Limited, was originally an aviation and logistics company providing additional security and training services. Its corporate structure is unique in China. Many of its senior management, including Prince as chairman, are non-Chinese – specifically retired American military specialists. With Chinese backing, Prince stated that he could ‘pursue [his] vision for Africa and globally in a transparent manner and with the most respected partners’. Indeed, many of his firm’s clients are Chinese private companies or state-owned enterprises with interests in infrastructure, oil and gas, and mining in Africa.

From the beginning, FSG has made efforts to distinguish itself from Blackwater, the private military company now renamed Academi, whose reputation was tarnished by the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007. FSG has enjoyed success with logistical projects in Africa and has hired legal advisers and auditors to provide transparent annual reports for public scrutiny. In 2016, FSG became a service provider for companies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, and began setting up offices in Myanmar, Laos and Pakistan. Future offices are planned for Thailand, Cambodia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

‘Most security challenges stem from clashes between the locals and workers and the fear that an influx of Chinese will affect demographics’

In late 2017, FSG revealed an expanded range of services – including an offer to the Afghan government of the use of its aircraft for close-support combat operations. In 2018, Prince offered the US government use of his private contractors to bring the 17-year Afghan conflict to an end. His proposal argued that traditional troop deployments could be substituted by 6,000 contractors and 2,000 US Special Forces, cutting the annual cost of the war from $68 billion to $5.5 billion. 

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, China has developed closer relations with Central Asia through cooperative security arrangements. The framework of the Shanghai Five group, comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, successfully resolved border disputes between its members and was later expanded into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to create a platform for cooperation on counterterrorism and security. In recent years, China’s economic interests have entered the picture; for example, its oil and gas interests in Central Asia are growing year on year and are challenging the dominance of Russian energy groups Gazprom and Lukoil. One example of a Chinese project is the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline, that travels across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. 

In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, Chinese state-owned enterprises have invested heavily in energy, infrastructure and logistics, helping to connect China to Middle Eastern markets and beyond. Chinese projects and workers continue to pour into the region, and new security challenges will naturally rise. The question is how will Chinese companies choose to resolve these new challenges? Western observers believe that private security firms can protect Chinese interests in Central Asia as they have in Africa. However, Central Asian observers would disagree: unlike many African states, the countries of Central Asia possess effective troops who can deal with security threats, because stability is their principal foreign policy concern. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, for example, are ranked among the top 50 most powerful armies in the world, according to Global Firepower.

Most of the security challenges facing Chinese companies stem not from the inability of Central Asian countries to provide basic security, but from clashes between the local populations and workers and the deeply rooted fear that an influx of Chinese workers might affect demographics. 

Examples were the clashes between locals and workers in 2014 at two oil refinery construction sites owned by Chinese construction company Zhongda Group in Kyrgyzstan, one at Tokmok and the other in nearby Kara-Balta. The Kyrgyz government intervened successfully in both instances to deport some of the unruly Chinese workers. 

The latter type of security challenge was seen in Kazakhstan in early 2016, when thousands of protesters rallied against land reforms proposed by the Kazakh government in the oil cities of Atyrau and Aktau, because they feared the new rules would permit Chinese investors to buy Kazakh land. In some cases, security challenges take the form of terrorist attacks, such as the suicide bombing of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek by locals linked with Uyghur separatists that injured three local embassy staff.

These and future incidents might tempt Chinese companies to secure their projects using private security companies. As the value and number of Chinese investments increase with the Belt and Road Initiative, the risk of private security involvement and proliferation across Central Asia will increase. Thus far, Chinese companies have complied with local laws and only engaged the basic services provided by unarmed local security guards.

If, in the future, Chinese companies decided to engage private security firms, it would be important to imagine what characteristics they might have. Recent experience reminds us that Chinese companies prefer Chinese security companies. However, with the appearance of a hybrid companies such as Frontier Services Group the lines have blurred. Alessandro Arduino, an expert on Chinese private security firms, believes that the high profitability of private security may increase the deployment in Central Asia of Russian contractors with combat experience in Donbass and Syria, because command of the Russian language is a desirable asset in the region. Chinese security firms have avoided hiring foreign talent, but hybrid companies may not. If Chinese-owned, western-run security firms begin to employ Russian contractors, they would have unrivalled operational prowess without any accountability, with serious implications for regional security.

Central Asian countries have made surprisingly limited preparations to deal with the potentially rapid growth of these
hybrid security firms in Central Asia. Akram Umarov, an Uzbek political scientist, believes that the arrival of Chinese security firms in Central Asia cannot be ruled out. At the same time, Anna Gussarova, a Kazakh scholar and director of the Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies, notes that this topic has never been raised by regional researchers and no literature exists on this matter. Abdughani Mamadazimov, a Tajik political scientist, believes that Chinese security firms would face a number of challenges on arrival in the region. He also believes that the Chinese government would not let this happen in Tajikistan, given Russia’s close security ties with that country. 

Current research recognizes that Central Asian regional policy requires contingency planning for Chinese companies, notwithstanding the close cooperation between Beijing and Central Asia and the existing security cooperation agreements. It is important to emphasize that decisions made by these Chinese companies are dictated by markets, not official Chinese policy. China and Central Asian countries must talk to each other and work out solutions to preempt any misunderstandings that will inevitably arise if Chinese security firms enter the region. 

The best solution for Central Asian countries is to view these emerging security challenges as opportunities to deepen collaboration with the Chinese government through existing channels of military and civilian cooperation.

https://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/twt/rise-china-s-private-armies#

Thoughts on the dusitD2 attack

On January 15th, 2019, I flew from Nairobi to Lamu, where I’ve been living for some time. While waiting for my luggage I chatted with a fellow passenger, a young Somali who told me he was working in the gas fields of Pate Island. We noted the gains Kenya has made in recent years in security and the uptick in international tourism. Other than the odd skirmish between Al-Shabaab and security forces in the Boni, it sure has looked lately as though Kenya had licked the militant group.

When I got home a journalist friend phoned to tell me that an attack was underway at the dusitD2 complex in Nairobi’s affluent Westland’s neighborhood. The action hadn’t been confirmed – it was only an hour into the attack – but Al-Shabaab were the most likely perpetrators.

The dusitD2 attack racked up some “firsts”: 

The Al-Shabaab attackers were all Kenyan nationals, including the two ethnic Somalis. At least two were Kikuyus from Kenya’s central region. (All four attackers who stormed the Westgate Mall in 2013 were Somali nationals.) 

For the dusitD2 Al-Shabaab deployed a suicide bomber, a first in its many attacks in Kenya.

The dusitD2 attack was anomalous in various ways—even outright weird. Several things seemed off (and Im sure many others as well). First, the suicide bomber. It may be a stretch to say the bomb went off “in the middle of nowhere,” as one analyst described it to me, but the bomber wasn’t positioned in a way that would have maximized casualties.

Instead he seemed to be walking away from the intended target — the restaurant verandah — and asking his handler with the remote, “Why haven’t I exploded yet?

Advertisement at dusitD2 complex

The moment Mahir Khalid Riziki detonates

The time of the attack was also peculiar. The gunmen stormed the dusitD2 security gates at around 2:30 pm. By that time most patrons and staff were back in their offices. The Westgate gunmen by contrast attacked the mall on when it was packed, on a Saturday. And they clearly had an exit strategy. Analysts speculate the attackers got away before security forces arrived.

2013 Westgate Attack

Al-Shabaab’s official statement about dusitD2, which among other things, tied the attack to Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, seemed irrelevant to troubles in East Africa.

The dusitD2 complex looked too complex for the killers to maneuver. Unlike Westgate with its massive, open, multi-story space, the dusitD2 complex consists of a restaurant, the hotel reception area, and a honeycomb of offices in several buildings.

dusitD2 complex

If the attackers weren’t aiming for high numbers, perhaps they were ordered to kill specific people in specific offices.

Among those killed were employees of various strategic development companies.

Jason Spindler, an American who died in the attack, worked at I-DEV, “a strategy and investment advisory firm focused on supporting businesses and organizations to achieve their impact and growth goals in emerging markets.

Jason Spindler enjoyed spending time in Lamu, a predominately Muslim town on Kenya’s north coast.

Feisal Ahmed, 31, and Abdalla Dahir, 33, two Somalis who were killed, had worked with the British firm Adam Smith International,”an award-winning global company that delivers impact, value and lasting change through economic growth and government reform” At the time of the attack, the two were working for the Somalia Stability Fund, managed by ASI, whose mission is to “bring peace and stability to Somalia”.

Al-Shabaab might view the efforts of a company like Adam Smith International as oriented to anything but bringing peace and prosperity to Somalia.

Rumors circulated that a large group of Americans were scheduled to meet for a conference at the dusitD2 but cancelled at the last minute. (The manager at the nearby Gemstone Suites, where the meeting had in fact taken place, reportedly said they’d never planned to meet at the dusitD2.)

A security source told me the Americans at the meeting at Gemstone Suites were with USAID or with people related to USAID-funded projects.

USAID in northern Kenya (2015)

It is widely believed that USAID projects project “soft-power” tactics not only to win over the people but also for advancing US economic and political interests. USAID is at the heart of the fight to win the hearts and minds of Kenya’s Muslim populations.

Al-Shabaab doesn’t like foreign meddling of any kind.

Diplomatic and security sources confirmed that the dusitD2 Hotel guests at the time of the attack included Ahmed Duale Gelle, President of central Somalia’s autonomous state of Galmudug. He happened to be outside the hotel at the time, and it is unclear whether he may have been a marked target. One analyst remarked that a lot of people having nothing to do with Al-Shabaab would probably like to take Gelle out.

If the group of USAID-related officials and Gelle were intended targets, it seems Al-Shabaab suffered a significant lapse in intelligence. A lapse that luckily saved lives.

Security analysts I’ve spoken with term the dusitD2 operation amateurish, and the militants themselves inept.

If the attack was, from Al-Shabaab’s point of view, a dud it was a success for Kenya’s security forces in terms of rapid response.

Learning from their disastrous and embarrassing behavior at the Westgate attack GSU, the Israeli-trained Recce squad, KDF, and Special Forces have been conducting “synergized operations”simulated responses—in a training area at Embakasi, near Kenyatta International Airport. The training objective, to learn from and close the gaps in response, appears to have been achieved. 

Returning to Nairobi at the end of January, I headed straight to the Dusit. I was surprised by how easily I was allowed in, past battalions of GSU police. Devoid of activity, the buildings comprising the complex, so many offices in them that I’d not noticed on prior visits, were like canyons.

And unlike the Westgate and response occurred over a period 80 hours, security forces extinguished the dusitD2 attack and the attackers in less than 48 hours. International media coverage has evaporated.

One final bit of weirdness; as it happens the headquarters of Frontier Services Group, a security company led by Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide, is located on Riverside Dr., five minutes from the dusitD2 complex.

 

The mysterious deaths of eleven black rhino in Kenya

This 2012 translocation of 23 rhino from a private ranch in Laikipia to a national park out west went without a hitch. [Footage of KWS sharpshooter darting a rhino with a tranquilizer] Translocations are fairly routine these days, though not without risks. So how did 11 highly endangered black rhino basically starve to death at a WWF-funded sanctuary in Tsavo NP, the receiving end of a KWS-managed translocation a few weeks ago?

Looking into it.

(Inquiring beasts want to know) #rhino #translocation #KenyaWildlifeServices #poaching #laikipia #KWS #sharpshooters

Update: Murder of Conservationist Esmond Bradley Martin

Update to my The Daily Beast story Who Killed This Man Who Saved So Many Rhinos and Elephants?

On February 4th, 76 year-old wildlife conservationist Esmond Bradley Martin was found slaughtered in his mansion in Langata, a posh residential enclave in Nairobi.

The “knife” that police and media had described as the murder weapon was more likely a panga, the Swahili word for a machete.

A source close to the investigation later told The Daily Beast that Martin had been “tortured and brutally murdered”. The source added that of all the motives land was strongest. At the time Martin had been involved in a dispute over several acres near his estate.

One acre lots in Langata are on the market for upwards of $500,000. Martin owned over 20 acres. A neighbor said he was trying to buy more “as a buffer”.

Langata residents, including Martin, were strenuously opposed the construction of a church on a lot beside Martin’s property. A Stop Order from Karen Langata District Association (KLDA) was sent on February 6th to Internal Security and Coordination Cabinet Secretary Fred Okengo Matiang’i Matiang’i and former Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabea. The politicians are registered as owners of the one-acre land L.R No 11914/72 along Mukoma Rd.

While those mentioned in the stop order are not the main focus of the murder investigation, according to my source, “their involvement cannot be ruled out”.

Entrance to Esmond Bradley Martin’s estate

Church construction site next to Martin’s estate

A Stop [Construction] Order from Karen Langata District Association (KLDA) was sent on February 6th to Internal Security and Coordination Cabinet Secretary Fred Okengo Matiang’i Matiang’i and former Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabea. The politicians are registered as owners of the one-acre land L.R No 11914/72 along Mukoma Rd

Unintended Consequences: A Fitness App Reveals a Secret US Military Base in Kenya

Fitness tracking Strava App reveals outlines of secret US bases (because people jog around the perimeter) around the world and as well as potentially sensitive information about military personnel on active duty.

Here’s what US Forward Operating Base Camp Simba in Lamu County, Kenya looks like.

The long vertical line in red is Camp Simba’s runway recently expanded to accommodate Hercules C-130 transport planes.

(Don’t yet see signs of Al-Shabaab – KDF running around circles in the nearby Boni forest)

Alternet : ‘Death Squads in Kenya’s Shadow War against al-Shabaab’

Alternet http://www.alternet.org/world/death-squads-kenya-iraq-vietnam-colombia-honduras

April, 8, 2014 — Kenya’s armed forces, bolstered by millions of dollars in U.S. aid and training, are now turning to death squad tactics against civilians who are sympathetic to an Islamist group based in Somalia.

The group is Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist group that claimed responsibility for a deadly attack last year on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. Al-Shabaab is a jihadist group dedicated to Islamic fundamentalism and a strict form of Islamic law, and is reportedly funded by a complex web of supporters abroad, the export of charcoal to Gulf Arab states, the slaughter of elephants for the illegal ivory trade, and according to the United Nations, Eritrea. (Eritrea backs the group to bolster its hand against rival Ethiopia, a state that invaded Somalia in 2006.)

Al-Shabaab’s Westgate mall attack came after Kenya’s 2011 invasion of Somalia to fight al-Shabaab, ostensibly to combat the country’s chronic instability that was spilling into Kenya but also to shore up key economic interests, like the profitable port in Lamu, near the Somali border. Kenyan soldiers remain in Somalia, along with thousands of other troops affiliated with the African Union, which in turn fuels al-Shabaab’s anger at Kenya.

Yesterday, the Daily Beast’s Margot Kiser, reporting from Kenya, shined a light on the likely existence of Kenyan death squads aimed at people the security forces see as Islamic preachers sympathetic to al-Shabaab. Kiser wrote that there had been a spate of murders in recent months. The goal of the extrajudicial executions, according to Kiser, is to “exterminate and intimidate people believed to be associated with the Al Shabaab movement in neighboring Somalia.” Religious leaders told Kiser that Kenyan security forces “are targeting them unfairly for persecution if not indeed for summary execution,” though local authorities say they have intelligence linking imams to al-Shabaab.

Kiser profiled one death squad target in particular: Abubakar Shariff Ahmed, an Islamic preacher who admitted to recruiting young people to wage war on the Kenyan government. He preached at the Musa mosque, allegedly associated with Islamist extremism. On February 2nd, Kenyan authorities raided the mosque, leading to clashes that resulted in the deaths of eight people, including a policeman.

The preacher, Ahmed, was gunned down on Tuesday when a car pulled up and people inside sprayed him with bullets. It’s unclear who exactly was responsible, but suspicion rests on Kenyan security forces. A dirty war is being waged on Kenya’s streets, and is likely to intensify.

The U.S. has denied that it has anything to do with the death squads, claiming it has trained Kenyan security to operate in line with human rights. But those claims are dubious. America’s involvement with Kenya’s anti-terror forces is deep. Since 2003, the U.S. has given Kenya $50 million to fight terrorism; the country is one of the five recipients of U.S. anti-terror financing. And the U.S. and the U.K. provide training for Kenya’s fight against al-Shabaab.

The claims of no U.S. involvement are all the more dubious since the U.S. has partnered with Somali militias to hunt down al-Shabaab members, and because of the extensive record of U.S. support for death squads in other countries. Whether in the context of the Cold War or the war on terror, America’s support for death squads has allowed the U.S. to stand back while proxy forces achieve its goals by engaging in the most unsavory of activities: extrajudicial assassinations.

Here are five other countries where the U.S. has supported death squads.

1. Iraq

America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq unleashed immense suffering, repression and a brutal civil war drawn on sectarian lines. One of the ways the U.S. fueled the sectarian civil war was by organizing and training death squads, largely to target Sunni Arab resistance to the new political order in the country. (Saddam Hussein systematically repressed Shiite Iraqis, and the tables were turned after America invaded and deposed Hussein.)

The first reports of U.S.-trained and -armed Shiite death squads emerged in 2005. An editorial by the Washington Post then noted that there was a “campaign of torture and murder being conducted by U.S.-trained government police forces.” The full extent of U.S. involvement became known when, in 2013, the Guardian and BBC Arabic conducted an investigation that shed more light on the squads.

Run by Colonel James Steele, a close adviser to General David Petraeus, the paramilitary squads tortured Iraqi prisoners and eventually evolved into death squads. Their goal was to torture Sunni prisoners for information about the resistance to U.S. forces.

As theGuardian reported, “the long-term impact of funding and arming this paramilitary force was to unleash a deadly sectarian militia that terrorised the Sunni community and helped germinate a civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives.”

2. El Salvador

Colonel James Steele’s involvement with Iraq’s death squads came over two decades after he was involved in a similar effort in El Salvador. In 1979, a military coup sparked a brutal civil war pitting the U.S.-backed government against left-wing rebels, inaugurating one of the most bloody chapters of the Cold War in Latin America.

Steele arrived in El Salvador in 1984, where he assumed control of U.S. special forces that trained Salvadoran military units that acted as death squads. The U.S. support for these death squads became known as the “Salvadoran Option.”

These Salvadoran units murdered an untold number of people, probably thousands of Salvadorans thought to be sympathetic or part of the rebel effort. They came to notoriety in 1980 whenfour American nuns were beaten, raped and killed by a death squad. In fact, as journalist Allan Nairn wrote in the Progressive in 1984,Salvadoran military death squads were set up earlier. “During the Kennedy Administration, agents of the US government in El Salvador set up two official security organizations that killed thousands of peasants and suspected leftists over the next fifteen years,” Nairn reported. “These organizations, guided by American operatives, developed into the paramilitary apparatus that came to be known as the Salvadoran Death Squads.”

3. Honduras

Since the overthrow of a leftist president in 2009, the U.S. has bolstered support for the right-leaning Honduran government. Part of that effort has been funding Honduran police, even when they engage in death squad activities. The execution targeting suspected gang members are part of the U.S.-backed drug war in the region.

In March 2013, the Associated Press published an expose of these death squads and the U.S. support for them. The State Department has spent millions of dollars a year on the Honduran police. While the U.S. claims the money only goes to vetted and specially trained units, the AP reported that all the police squads are controlled by one man: Juan Carlos Bonilla, who has been linked to death squad activity in the past as well.

“In the last three years, Honduran prosecutors have received as many as 150 formal complaints about death squad-style killings in the capital of Tegucigalpa, and at least 50 more in the economic hub of San Pedro Sula,” the AP reported. “The country’s National Autonomous University, citing police reports, has counted 149 civilians killed by police in the last two years, including 25 members of the ’18th Street’ gang, one of the largest and most dangerous in the country.”

4. Colombia

This long-standing U.S. ally was one of the first countries where the U.S. set up death squads. The Colombian government has long been engaged in a battle against the FARC, a leftist rebel group.

In 2007, historian Greg Grandin documented the history of America’s Colombian death squads in Salon. In 1962, the Kennedy administration sent General William Yarborough to the country to set up a unit to “execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents.”

“The point of death squads was not just to eliminate those thought to be working with the enemy, but to keep potential rebel sympathizers in a state of fear and anxiety,” wrote Grandin.

5. Vietnam

The U.S. war in Vietnam in the 1960s also employed death squads run by U.S. forces and South Vietnamese allies. The operations, referred to as the “Phoenix Program,” were aimed at killing suspected communist sympathizers in South Vietnam.

Members of the CIA-organized unit included Navy SEALS, Green Berets and South Vietnamese mercenary units. The “Phoenix Program” lead to the killing of an estimated 20,000 people between 1967-1972.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

http://www.alternet.org/world/death-squads-kenya-iraq-vietnam-colombia-honduras