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......Namaste.....John Graham - butlincat

Jai guru deva om जय गुरुदेव ॐ


Monday, 29 February 2016

Catholic priest is caught on video snorting cocaine in a room full of Nazi memorabilia - Daily Mail

Father Stephen Crossan filmed taking cocaine at party on church grounds

  • Roman Catholic priest sniffed the class A drug through a £10 note at home
  • He admitted taking cocaine but said he did 'not have an issue with drugs'
  • Revellers also claimed there was Nazi memorabilia at 37-year-old's home
Father Stephen Crossan, 37, is said to have sniffed the class A drug through a £10 note at the end of a night of drinking beers and whiskey.
In the footage he is heard saying 'I shouldn't' before snorting the white powder off a plate while talking to a friend.
Father Stephen Crossan, 37, is said to have sniffed the class A drug through a £10 note at the end of a night of drinking beers and whiskey
Caught on camera: Surrounded by Nazi memorabilia, this is the moment Roman Catholic priest Father Stephen Crossan was filmed snorting a line of cocaine at a party in his house on church grounds
 
The video, obtained by The Sun on Sunday, is said to have been recorded at the end of two days of partying when Father Crossan invited friends to his parish home.
He has admitted taking drugs, telling the newspaper's Ruth Warrander: 'It was just the one night and that was it. I do not have an issue with drugs.'
 
A source said a number of revellers went back to Father Crossan's house at 11am for seven hours - where they were greeted by Nazi memorabilia - after a party host asked them to leave.
The memorabilia included flags, hats and an eagle with a swastika on a plinth on Father Crossan's mantelpiece.
 
Father Crossan, who lives on the grounds of St Patrick's Church in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, denied being a Nazi and said the memorabilia was there because he collects 'historical stuff'
The source added: 'It was all over the house. At one point Stephen put on a cap and did the Nazi salute.
'It's shocking. He's supposed to be an upstanding member of society. He shouldn't be taking drugs.'
The source also said Father Crossan had been drinking beers and Jack Daniels whiskey as well as taking cocaine.
 
Father Crossan, who lives on the grounds of St Patrick's Church in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, denied being a Nazi and said the memorabilia was there because he collects 'historical stuff'.
He said he had depression and was on sick leave when the footage was taken. Father Crossan said he had left the church but was being backed by the parish, while a spokesman for his bishop said the priest would be supported through his issues.
Father Crossan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College Maynooth, and completed a degree in theology in 2007. 
During his years at Maynooth, he was involved in various pastoral activities including prison and hospital chaplaincy, according to a parish website. 
He was appointed to Seapatrick parish as Curate in 2012 and before this served as Curate in St Peter’s parish, Lurgan and the parish of Tullylish.


source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3468542/Catholic-priest-caught-video-snorting-cocaine-room-Nazi-memorabilia-house-church-grounds.html#ixzz41Yt3eGeV

CONSPIRACY JOURNAL NO. 851



2/28/16  #851
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This week Conspiracy Journal brings you such cochlea-crushing stories as:


First Step to Create "Cyber-Soldiers" -
-  Mysterious Noise Baffles Oregon Community -- Mad Gasser or Mad M.I.B.? -
AND: "Tar-Like" Substance Rained Down on Michigan Town

All these exciting stories and MORE in this week's issue of
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~ And Now, On With The Show! ~


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A Treasure Hunters Dream Come True!

SPOOKY TREASURE TROVES
FIND OUT THE STRANGE CONNECTION BETWEEN UFOS, GHOSTS, CURSED PIECES OF EIGHT AND THE SUPERNATURAL
Everyone has fantasized about finding buried treasure. It’s a child’s dream and many a grown person’s obsession. Thousands own metal detectors and regularly scan the shore line, creek beds and out of the way mountain crevices looking for that proverbial treasure trove of all time.
In the summer of 2015, a salvage company recovered treasure worth $4.5 million off the coast of Florida, a fortune in gold and jewels that had sunk with a Spanish galleon in 1715. In an amazing case of synchronicity, the vast riches were recovered 300 years to the day – July 31 – after the shipwreck. The CEO of the salvage company told the media at the time that he felt a mysterious “energy” had wanted the treasure found and led them to it on that precise day
But there is more. Inside the pages of this book, the reader will be given the opportunity to unlock the mystery to discovering some fabulous fortune that has lain hidden away for decades, perhaps even centuries. Join Tim Beckley, Sean Casteel, Paul Eno, Dr. Nandor Fodor, Scott Corrales, Preston Dennett and Paul Dale Roberts as they provide guidance in searching for million of dollars or more in gold, diamonds, rare doubloons or old art masterpieces.
But above all else you will learn of the “supernatural treasure hunting connection” that includes the appearance of UFOs, ghosts, spirits of deceased Native Americans and even Bigfoot, all of whom are either guarding vast treasures or have been known to lead deserving souls to the end of a rainbow and vast wealth.
This volume will surely be a prize possession of anyone interested in the connection between UFOs, ghosts, curses and the paranormal. Or anyone just looking for a spooky story that they can relate to.

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- YOUR BRAIN ON THE INTERNET DEPARTMENT -

First Step to Create "Cyber-Soldiers"
The U.S. military has successfully implanted and tested its first 'brain modem' on an animal subject.

The tiny, implanted chip, developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), uses a tiny sensor that travels through blood vessels, lodges in the brain and records neural activity.

Neurologists injected tiny sensors into livestocks’ veins and then recorded the electrical impulses that control the animals’ movements for six months.

The sensor, called a 'stentrode', a combination of the words 'stent' and 'electrode', is the first step in the military's desire to allow soldiers to control machinery with their minds.

Hypothetically, this could allow servicemen to use the 'brain modem' to maneuver drones.

This is part of a program launched by the U.S. military to develop implantable chips that will allow the human brain to communicate directly, and accurately, with computers. The devices would convert the neurochemical information produced by brain cells into the digital binary language used by computers.

The stentrode is the size of a paperclip, flexible and injectable. Instead of invasive brain surgery, it enters the bloodstream via a catheter and then transmits data.

'DARPA has previously demonstrated direct brain control of a prosthetic limb by paralyzed patients fitted with penetrating electrode arrays implanted in the motor cortex during traditional open-brain surgery,' said Doug Weber, the program manager for RE-NET.

'By reducing the need for invasive surgery, the stentrode may pave the way for more practical implementations of those kinds of life-changing applications of brain-machine interfaces.'

Phillip Alvelda, the Neural Engineering System Design program manager, said the technology is aimed at overcoming the problems faced by current attempts at brain-computer communication.

While these devices can detect the electrical activity of the brain, they require the user to concentrate and undergo training to produce specific, easy to detect signals.

Mr Alvelda said: 'Today's best brain-computer interface systems are like two super computers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem.

'Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.'

The project could also open up new therapies for neural disorders and even develop devices that could help the blind and deaf.

Darpa added its digital auditory or visual information could be fed directly into the brain at high resolutions.

While this could help patients, it could also provide new ways for soldiers to receive information and communicate while on the battlefield.

Most research on brain implants has focused on allowing people with disabilities to control computers or robotic limbs with their brain.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University last week announced a patient had used an implant that taps into the nerve signals from the brain to move a robotic arm.

Others have used electrodes inserted directly into the brain.

Perhaps the most common brain-computer interface technology, however, are modified electroencephalograms, which pick up the electrical activity from the brain on the scalp.

With training, these can be used to move robots or even paint on a computer screen. These also require ungainly headsets that use sensors and gels to pick up the activity.

The Darpa program, conversely, wants to use an implant that taps directly into the brain following surgery.

Such neural interfaces currently attempt to squeeze information from tens of thousands of neurons at one time through roughly 100 channels.

This can mean the results are imprecise and filled with background noise.

Instead, Darpa wants its implants to communicate with single neurons in a given region of the brain, with the capacity to handle signals from one million brain cells.

A statement on Darpa's website said there were still significant challenges to be overcome before this goal could be achieved, including developing the hardware and computational techniques needed to handle the volume of data that would be produced by such implants.

The project forms part of the brain initiative announced by President Obama in April 2013, which is aimed at developing new ways of treating and preventing brain disorders and injuries.

Source: The Daily Mail
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3467683/U-S-military-successfully-collects
-data-
animals-using-brain-modem-used-develop-cyborg-soldiers-use-brain-implant
-control-machines.html

- JUST MAKE IT STOP DEPARTMENT -

Mysterious Noise Baffles Oregon Community
By Peter Holley
A mysterious shrieking sound has left the residents of one Oregon neighborhood seriously perplexed.

For some time now, a weird, metallic, whistling shriek has split the night in parts of Forest Grove, putting many residents' nerves on edge driving pets that hear it "crazy." But the worst part about strange racket is that no one can really put their finger on what's causing it.

Dave Nemeyer, fire marshal of the Forest Grove Fire and Rescue in Forest Grove, said that he first learned of the strange noise after a local resident recorded and shared a video of it on the city's Facebook page.

"It's definitely a horrendous noise," Nemeyer said. "I have no idea what the noise is. [The resident] described to us that it was coming from the middle of the street. To me, it sounds like the sound of train tracks, that metal screeching sound, but there are no train tracks near her home ... so that's obviously ruled out."

Residents began hearing the strange noise, which lasts anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, early in February. It is loud enough, residents say, that it rouses them from sleep and drives pets crazy.

Rick Vanderkin, the city's public works superintendent, said that very few people have heard the sound, making it difficult to locate and even more difficult to make an "educated guess as to what's creating the noise." So far, officials have ruled out a water valve, a gas leak and wildlife as possible culprits.

Forest Grove resident Colleen Ahrens said that she's been woken up three or four times by the sound.

"It almost sounds like someone needs to change their brakes," she said.

Ahrens said her husband is a mechanic and when she described the noise to him, he thought a worn brake pad could be the source. But after she listened to the recording, she's not so sure anymore.

Both Northwest Natural, a gas company, and Forest Grove Public Works claim their agencies aren’t responsible for the sound, according.

After investigating, the fire department determined the sound was not coming from a commercial fire or smoke alarm, the station reported. The department does not believe the noise poses a public health risk.

Some residents wondered whether the sound could be coming from the brakes of a logging truck, but its duration and intensity are different, according to the station. There’s also the fact that nearby roads are flat.

Although some have speculated that the sound is coming from a ruptured natural gas line, the lines are buried underground, making them an unlikely possible source. An unnamed spokesperson for Northwest Natural said that a leaking gas line would sound like a tea kettle and that residents would smell gas.

Another possible culprit, residents have speculated, is the Department of Forestry. The sound appears to originate in the agency’s vicinity, but after crews there tested their equipment on Tuesday, they concluded it wasn’t originating on their property.

Tobin Cooley, an audio expert, measured the noise with a sound meter, and said that it was a highly unusual case.

"It sounds like some sort of pressurized gas or air through a fitting or valve or something,” he said. "It’s not steady state, and you can’t predict when it’s going to happen. Those are all interesting sound features.”

Cooley noted that high-pitched tones don’t travel far, suggesting the sound is originating near the residents who are hearing it.

“The best instrument by far is the human ear,” he added. “If you can track it down and experience it, with measurements and your ears, you can find the source.”

The theories run the gamut, from a bad clothes-dryer belt to plate tectonics to noisy wind disturbed by Pacific Ocean currents to bad streetlight bulbs to noisy E.T.s.

Here's a sample of the most interesting and entertaining comments from www.oregonlive.com:

What it sounds most like is bowing the edge of a metal plate -- yes, a violin or base fiddle bow and a thin plate of steel say a foot square. An old physics prof made one, dusted flour on the plate, and bowed it to demonstrate the vibration nodes.

-- Paul Rogers

Hubby the engineer suggests it's a bad valve on the waterline to or from a water tower -- which would be difficult to triangulate the source of the noise.  I think it sounds more like a "singing bowl" or one note from an armonica.  (BTW, the armonica lost its audience in the 18th century when rumors the audience or the performers went mad from the sound.)

-- Kay Lancaster

Saw your article on-line and also saw the report on ABC World News last week. Have they tried checking the bulbs in the street lamps/lights?  Also any house that has an outside light with special bulbs. These lights can make strange noises when the bulbs start to go.
You can hear the weird noise for yourself in this Inside Edition video.

Source: The Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/02/21/listen-to-the-mysterious-
nocturnal-noise-baffling-experts-and-terrifying-an-oregon-community/

- WE ARE ALL ONE DEPARTMENT -

Group Consciousness Measured in 17-Year Experiment
By Tara MacIsaac
In 1998, scientists began an experiment to see whether they could physically detect a change in global consciousness during large-scale emotional events such as natural disasters. In December 2015, they finished collecting data from some 40 countries spread across the world throughout 500 major events.

How the Experiment Works

The data came from random event generators (REGs). These are machines that continuously produce bits randomly every second. It’s like a coin flipper: there’s a 50 percent chance it will turn up one way or the other.

Earlier Princeton University experiments had suggested human intention could influence the bits to deviate from chance expectations. Put simply, if someone wanted it to be tails, it was more likely to be tails.

Dr. Roger Nelson coordinated these Princeton experiments for more than 20 years. He went on to direct the Global Consciousness Project (unaffiliated with Princeton), which applies the same principles on a larger scale.

The project set up REGs all over the world to see if they would deviate from chance expectations during significant global events. Nelson and his colleagues decided that after 500 such events the first phase of the study would end.

The first of these 500 events was the bombing of U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania in 1998. The last was a complex “event” on Dec. 12, 2015. Two major happenings coincided: an agreement was reached during the global climate change summit in Paris and on the same day one of the largest global meditations ever took place.

While the researchers looked at the “effects” of individual events like these, it is the statistical data from many years and many events that was important.

The Results

Nelson wrote in a Global Consciousness Project (GCP) blog post: “The result is a definite confirmation of the general hypothesis … that great events on the world stage which bring people together in shared thoughts and synchronized emotions will be correlated with changes in the behavior of our network of random sources.”

He also explained on the GCP website: “There are many repetitions of events or types of events, such as New Years, religious holidays, giant organized meditations, and unfortunately also terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. So we have plenty of replications, and indeed we see that the faint signal which otherwise is buried in statistical noise does rise out of that noisy background to make a persuasive statistical bottom line.”

Last year at a Society for Scientific Exploration conference he reported that the odds against chance are trillions to one.

GCP entered the next phase this year, investigating further the correlations discovered in its REG data.

Other Explanations for Anomalies?

In a 2010 article titled “Exploring Global Consciousness,” Nelson explained how GCP considered other explanations for the variance from chance.

“One might suppose that the result is due to experimental flaws such as the inadequate shielding of … [REGs] from background electromagnetic fields or bias due to methodological errors.

“The GCP design addresses these eventualities by physically shielding the RNGs from electromagnetic fields and by logical operations in software which cancel output bias arising from environmental influences.”

Nelson’s team would choose major events then look at the deviation from chance (50:50) during that time period, rather than looking at deviations or spikes on the REGs then trying to find a global event to correspond to it.

This latter method could have led to biased selections—the possibility that the researchers could find some global event on any given day to correspond to the spike on the REGs.

How Does Consciousness Affect Machines?

The connection between an REG machine and human consciousness is unclear. It’s part of what GCP hopes to further investigate, but Nelson maintained: “The correlation is clearly related in some way to consciousness and possibly to what we have operationally defined as ‘global consciousness.'”

He can only speculate, but he imagines consciousness could be a field that becomes more coherent during these global events. Consciousness may be the “seat of a nonlocal, active information field,” he said, noting that this is not a standard, well-defined physical construct.

“Such a field can somehow be absorbed by the REG devices,” he said, “which then show patterns where none should exist.”

Source: Epoch Times
http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1971027-physical-effects-of-group-consciousness
-measured-in-massive-17-year-experiment/?sidebar=morein

- ARE YOU ALONE TONIGHT DEPARTMENT -

Mad Gasser or Mad M.I.B.?
By Nick Redfern
Back in the 1940s, the people of Mattoon, Illinois were plagued by a sinister character that became known as the Mad Gasser of Mattoon. The name was a very apt one: the mysterious figure gassed his victims, as a means to gain entry to their property, and to take advantage of whatever caught his eye. His actions followed a similar wave of attacks – in the 1930s – in Botetourt County, Virginia. But, today at least, let’s focus on the later events. On the night of August 31, 1944, a man named Urban Raef was overcome by a mysterious gas that provoked sickness, weakness, and vomiting. Despite Mr. Raef’s fear that there was a gas leak in the house, such was not the case. Rafe’s wife – to her horror – found herself briefly paralyzed.

Also among the Gasser’s victims, was Mrs. Bert Kearney, who lived in Mattoon, too. On September 1, 1944, and approximately an hour before the witching-hour struck, Mrs. Kearney was hit by what was described as a “sickening, sweet odor in the bedroom.” As was the case with Mrs. Raef, the “gas” caused temporary paralysis in her legs. It also resulted in a burning sensation to her lips, and a parched feeling in her mouth.

Mrs. Kearney cried out for her sister – whose name was Martha and who came running to see what was going on. She too was unable to avoid the powerful smell. In no time, the police were on the scene, but the Mad Gasser was nowhere to be seen. At least, not for a while. As Bert Kearney drove home – after his shift as a cab-driver was over – he caught sight of a darkly-dressed man peering through the window of the Kearney’s bedroom. It was a thin man wearing a tight, dark cap on his head. He quickly fled the scene.

In the wake of the curious affair, other reports of the Mad Gasser’s infernal activities surfaced – to the extent that both the local police and the FBI got involved. The townsfolk were plunged into states of fear and paranoia. While some cases were put down to nothing more than hysteria, that was not the beginning and end of the story. For example, Thomas V. Wright, the Commissioner of Public Health, said: “There is no doubt that a gas maniac exists and has made a number of attacks. But many of the reported attacks are nothing more than hysteria. Fear of the gas man is entirely out of proportion to the menace of the relatively harmless gas he is spraying. The whole town is sick with hysteria.”

The mystery was never resolved to the satisfaction of everyone. One theory offers that the Mad Gasser of Mattoon was actually nothing stranger than a bunch of kids. Writer Scott Maruna suggests that the Gasser was a University of Illinois student, Farley Llewellyn, who had a deep knowledge of chemistry and who went to school with the initial victims. Other theories include burglars and even extraterrestrials. But, there’s another possibility.

What we know for sure is that the Mad Gasser dressed in dark clothes, was thin, and wore a dark cap that fitted tightly on his head. He tried to make his way into homes in the dead of night and ensured that the homeowners were pretty much unable to do anything about it. This is all very reminiscent of the strange saga of Albert Bender, a man who pretty much began the early 1950s wave of Men in Black encounters. From his home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Bender ran the International Flying Saucer Bureau. That is, until a trio of darkly-clothed, fedora hat-wearing MIB paid him a visit and told him to quit digging into the world of UFOs. Or else.

There was, however, no knock at the front-door. Nor was there a flashing of ID cards by grim-faced officials of “the government.” Bender’s MIB were much stranger: they were pale-faced, thin, and sported shining eyes. From 1952 to 1953, Bender had repeated encounters with the Men in Black – almost exclusively at night and into the early hours. They typically materialized in his attic-based bedroom, which he called his “Chamber of Horrors” (Bender was a horror-movie fanatic and someone well-versed in the occult). When I say “materialized,” I mean they walked through walls and windows. Allegedly, of course.

But, there was something else too: on almost every occasion that the MIB appeared, it was amid a powerful odor. In Bender’s case, something akin to sulfur. Bender, like so many of the residents of Mattoon just 3 years earlier, was overcome by nausea, and felt faint, light-headed and weak when the MIB turned up. So, in both Mattoon in the mid-1940s and in Bridgeport in the early 1950s, we have darkly-clad thin men, wearing equally dark hats and caps, entering homes in the dead of night. And all associated with powerful odors that badly affected the victims.

Of course, it might be said that a down-to-earth explanation exists for the Mattoon affair. On the other hand, maybe the Mad Gasser of Mattoon should be renamed the Mad M.I.B. of Mattoon…

You find out more about the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, and other Mad Gasser incidents, in Tim R. Swartz's book:
"America's Strange and Supernatural History"

Source: Mysterious Universehttp://mysteriousuniverse.org/2016/02/mad-gasser-or-mad-m-i-b/

- GOING, GOING, GONE DEPARTMENT -
Scientists Don't Know Why Things Just Disappear

Yeah, yeah, this is the 100th anniversary of Einstein's ''Miracle Year'' - the year he figured out everything from relativity to atoms to e=mc2. So how come Mr. Genius never bothered to explain the deepest physics mystery of all:

Where does the pen by the phone go?

As an absent-minded-professor type, Albie could not have been unaware of this problem. If he didn't address it, it must be because he, too, could not figure it out. I mean, you take a message. You hang up the phone. You get a snack, the phone rings, you come back and...No pen!

Or, sometimes, no paper! Or if there is a pen, now it doesn't write. How can it possibly be the same pen?

In the interest of science - and matrimony, since it is hard to stay happily married when you suspect your spouse of constantly misplacing the pen and, ridiculously, your pen-pilfering klepto-spouse suspects you - I asked a consortium of physicists and one persnickety professional organizer to explain:

Why does stuff just disappear? And just as mysteriously: Why does some of the stuff, particularly the toothpaste, suddenly reappear, after you have either forgotten all about it or spent many, many, MANY hours hunting for it RIGHT WHERE IT SUDDENLY REAPPEARS!? Explain this!!

''Einstein proposed that mass distorts space-time like a bowling ball distorts the surface of a mattress,'' said Daniel Koon, a professor of physics at St. Lawrence University, thinking he was being helpful. (Think again!)

This bowling ball creates a black hole, ''like a newly formed blob in a lava lamp,'' said Koon. And this blob swallows pens.

Or something. On second thought, maybe I shouldn't have started with the physicists.
But anyway, I did, and another one - Lawrence Brehm at the State University of New York at Potsdam - said that, in fact, black holes are NOT to blame. It's the entropy, stupid!

''There is usually enough random energy around to create disorder'' - i.e., entropy. ''This random energy can be a breeze or a vibration, but often it takes the form of a child, spouse or pet.''

AHA! So then it is my husband (or child or pet) who is always walking off with the pen, right?

Well, not according to Donald Ware. Ware happens to be the director of the International UFO Congress but he does hold a graduate degree in physics, and he says that ''advanced aliens'' hang around, moving objects through ''what some call telekinesis.'' Moreover, they do this to ''expand the awareness of the individual involved.''

In other words, when I cannot find the pen, it is because aliens have moved it in order to make me more aware of the other inhabitants of the universe.

Other inhabitants who have picked up all my husband's bad habits.

Lisa Zaslow, the professional organizer, shakes her head. The problem is not space-time or aliens or entropy, she chides, but that we don't pay enough attention to where we put stuff.

Yeah. Like that really makes sense. Lisa, I pay constant attention to my stuff and, in fact, have just found my phone pen, so there! The only remaining physics mystery is this:

How'd it get into my underwear drawer?

Source: Tallahassee Democrat
http://www.tallahassee.com/mld/democrat/news/opinion/11526414.htm
- GARBAGE DUMP OF THE GODS DEPARTMENT -

"Tar-Like" Substance Rained Down on Michigan Town

A city in Michigan is perplexed after a a tar-like substance has rained down on their cars, porches and driveways this week.

Residents in Harrison Township are concerned about a weird splattering covering their neighborhood and no one is sure what it is. They know based on the splash patterns it probably fell from the sky, and the fire department says that the strange, oily, ashy substance is not flammable.

The black, oily substance first appeared on at least six driveways in Harrison Township on Sunday, and days later, what the material is still remains a mystery.

Harrison Township resident Paul Schlutow, 73, said 'everybody's concerned' about the substance and the major concern is that the substance could potentially be harmful.

Residents originally believed that the substance could have come from the nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base, but the base released a statement saying it was not coming from their location.

'There is no indication that the substance in question came from a military aircraft of any type,' the statement said.

The statement said the airbase has 'been in communication with the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality, which was sending a representative to the area in question to review the material'.

'As Michigan's Hometown Air Force, we take being a good neighbor very serious,' Brig Gen John D Slocum, commander of the 127th Wing and the Selfridge base commander told ABC News. 'We will continue to work with our local and state partner agencies to resolve this question.' 

There are a few possibilities for what could have caused the gunk to fall from the sky. Bad weather like tornados or storms have been known to carry everything from golf balls to mud long distances only to deposit them on unsuspecting and unfortunate heads. In this case though, the weather in Harrison on Sunday, when residents first noticed the splatters, was clear, with a wind gust of up to 18 mph.

It could be animals. One resident noted that it did look like bird excrament, and it wouldn't be the first time that birds have deposited unwelcome presents on people.

In addition to their normal droppings, last year, seagulls dropped lampreys on an unsuspecting Alaskan town. Although right now, the sheer volume of the splatter would seem to rule out birds as the culprits.

Tests on the substance are being carried out by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. They hope to have an answer soon.

Source: Popular Science
http://www.popsci.com.au/science/whats-falling-from-the-sky-in-harrison-
michigan-,415387

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We need to pay very close attention to this. This is huge
Posted by Deb Shelton on Monday, February 22, 2016

Sunday, 28 February 2016

SIGNS OF THE END PART 149 - LATEST EVENTS FEBRUARY 2016




SIGNS OF THE END PART 149 - LATEST EVENTS FEBRUARY 2016
        

"HUNTING BOKO HAREM: The U.S. Extends its Drone War Deeper into Africa with Secretive Base"


AROUA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, proclaimed the sign on the concrete and glass terminal building. The designation was something of a misnomer, because only three or four planes land each week in this sleepy outpost in northern Cameroon, near the Nigerian border, all of them domestic flights. The schedule of the flights tends to be unpredictable. The aging jet that had just flown me to Garoua from Douala, for example, had made an unscheduled stop in N’Djamena, the capital of neighboring Chad, so that a government minister could attend a funeral nearby. As a result, the plane had touched down in Garoua five hours late.
But that wasn’t the only unusual thing about this Cameroon Air flight. Inside the cabin I had noticed several young men who were unmistakably U.S. military — close-cropped hair, athletic builds. And as I descended from the plane and set foot on the tarmac into the blast furnace heat, I spotted a curious triumvirate waiting for them: a middle-aged, sunburned white man wearing cargo pants and a green T-shirt, flanked by two U.S. soldiers in camouflage gear.
“You the Navy guy?” the sunburned man asked me.
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m a journalist.”
The Navy guy, a blond and lanky figure wearing Ray Bans and carrying a daypack, approached Mr. Sunburn and introduced himself. Soon, three other Americans from the plane joined them. They stood talking and joking beside the conveyor belt inside the baggage claim, a decrepit hall with fluorescent lights, dangling electrical wires, and scuffed white walls. Then they carried their backpacks and duffel bags to the parking lot, and drove off in four-wheel-drive vehicles — bound for a secretive new military facility not far away.

hotel-benoue-garoua-cameroon

Hotel Benoue in Garoua, Cameroon.

Photo: Tripadvisor.com
Until recently, about the only Westerners to visit Garoua were big-game hunters and safari goers, but now a steady stream of crew-cut Americans has been stepping off these irregular flights from Douala and Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. Clues to what is happening can be found at Garoua’s finest hotel, the Benoue, where fruit bats fly screeching through the sky at dusk and local security agents are usually sprawled in the lobby. The hotel has 100 rooms, air-conditioning units that pump nothing but warm air, and a backyard garden with coconut palms, a cracked swimming pool, chipped ping pong tables, and a terrace where a breakfast buffet — greasy chicken pieces, black beans, and soggy croissants — is served every morning.

In late January, I sat on the hotel terrace and eavesdropped on a stubble-cheeked Englishman who was involved with the American operation in Garoua — a drone base that had opened just a few months earlier, in mid-October, on the other side of the “international” airport. He was engaged in an intense conversation with a young British colleague, and he was agitated. A local employee had taken photos of construction sites at the new base — hangars, tents, and troops — and had posted some of them on the internet. “It was a fucking breach of security,” he sputtered. “He took a photo of the fucking colonel.”
Later that day, I introduced myself to the Englishman as he was draining a Castel beer and chatting in fluent French with the hotel’s female bartender. The Englishman, who didn’t want his name used because he was not supposed to speak with journalists, said he had served five years with a French Foreign Legion parachute regiment in Corsica, then worked as a security contractor for British and American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he was a “one-man operation,” he said, working on logistics and security for the U.S. troops, who numbered about 120 at the time and were increasing with every incoming flight. He had hired 50 Cameroonians to work construction, cook, and do laundry for the Americans, and he was keeping a close eye on them, worried about leaks of information to sympathizers of Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group.
The U.S. troops were hunkered down, forbidden to fraternize with locals or visit Garoua’s bars and nightclubs.
“There’s some sensitive shit going on in there,” he said. “The operative word here is Benghazi.”
U.S. Marines and sailors are working with Cameroon’s Fusiliers Marins (FUMA) and Compagnie des Palmeurs de Combat (COPALCO) to increase their capabilities to combat illicit activity and increase security in the waterways and borders of Cameroon. At the request of the Cameroonian government and through coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, are partnering with their military counterparts in infantry tactics in support of their maritime security force capabilities. The small team of Marines are currently attached to Africa Partnership Station, which is an international security cooperation initiative sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF), aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and other collaborative activities in order to improve maritime security and safety in Africa. The Marines and sailors are conducting training in combat marksmanship, patrolling, ambush techniques, close-quarters combat, tactical questioning and operations orders. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Matthew Whitaker)


U.S. Marines work with Cameroon’s Fusiliers Marins (FUMA) and Compagnie des Palmeurs de Combat (COPALCO) in Limbe, Cameroon.

Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

ON OCTOBER 14, President Barack Obama announced to Congress that America’s global war on Islamic terrorism had expanded to yet another front: The U.S. was sending 300 troops to a new drone base inside Cameroon, along that country’s volatile border with Nigeria, where Boko Haram is most active. Founded in 2002 by a fundamentalist Islamic preacher in Maiduguri, in Nigeria’s destitute northeast, Boko Haram opposes Western education, literature, and science, and transformed itself in 2010 into a terrorist group that has raped, tortured, and killed tens of thousands of civilians in the past five years.
“These forces … will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed,” Obama stated. A White House official later said the troops would not be used for combat, but to oversee intelligence gathering and surveillance. The president didn’t reveal the exact location of the new facility, but the U.S. ambassador to Cameroon, Michael Hoza, said it would be in Garoua, the site of a Cameroonian air force base. No Western journalists had apparently visited this place since Obama’s announcement, little had been written about it in the American media, and the Pentagon was keeping quiet, so I set out to find out what was going on.
Garoua represents the newest expansion of America’s stealth war against jihad in Africa. Piloted and unmanned aircraft have flown from bases in Djibouti — the center of U.S. drone operations on the continent — as well as Ethiopia and Kenya, in addition to ships off the coast of East Africa. Predator MQ-1 drones and their larger cousins, MQ-9 Reapers, have been based in Niamey in Niger, N’Djamena in Chad, and Seychelles International Airport. There is plenty more to come. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 appropriated $50 million for construction of an “Airfield and Base Camp at Agadez, Niger … to support operations in western Africa.”
theintercept_drone_base_cameroon1
Map: The Intercept

The latest drone project began taking shape in 2015, in the midst of a major intensification of Boko Haram’s military operations throughout the Lake Chad basin — a vast area of desert and semi-arid savannah that extends into half a dozen countries in central Africa. Africa Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations on the continent, was concerned about the state of intelligence gathering among the nations involved in the fight — Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Benin. “It mostly consisted of guys looking through binoculars, World War I-style,” says a Western diplomat who was not authorized to speak on the record. When a detachment of Gray Eagle MQ-1C drones and their military support team became freed up from other surveillance operations last year, Africom looked for a base in the heart of the combat zone. The U.S. military already had a relationship with the Cameroon military — Special Forces work with Cameroon’s rapid response brigade, known by the French acronym BIR, an elite unit based primarily along the border with Nigeria — and was familiar with Garoua. The word came down from Africom: Ask the Cameroonians.
The newest drone base constitutes a high-cost, high-tech military enterprise plunked down in a poor, under-developed country in Africa. In early February, the base became fully operational, hosting a fleet of four Gray Eagle drones, a successor to the original Predator, manufactured by General Atomics. The four drones, which can carry out surveillance missions in rotation 24 hours a day, allow U.S. intelligence analysts to gather detailed information about Boko Haram’s movements, bomb-making factories, and military camps — and share it with a multinational force of 8,700 African troops that is now spread across the Lake Chad basin.
Yet the latest drone mission solidifies an alliance with an unsavory African strongman: Cameroonian President Paul Biya, who has clung to power for 33 years, almost as long as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and is regarded as a corrupt, remote, and authoritarian leader. A Human Rights Foundation report in 2014 stated that “Biya has built a system of corrupt and autocratic power, using the legal and justice system to imprison and bankrupt dissidents, opposition leaders, and journalists. … The secret police prowl university campuses, the army regularly patrols urban centers, and state permission is required for public assembly.” Biya had reportedly amassed a personal fortune of more than $200 million — compared to the average Cameroonian income of $1,350 a year.

Moreover, though at the moment the drones are being deployed for surveillance only, they could — if history is any kind of guide — be armed with Hellfire missiles or Viper Strike bombs. If remote-controlled killing from the sky begins, it usually leads to the deaths of the wrong people: Classified military documents previously published by The Intercept show that in a five-month period of a major drone campaign in Afghanistan, nearly nine out of 10 of the people killed by drones were not the intended targets. Civilian casualties tend to generate the kind of local backlash that has been evident in America’s ongoing drone wars in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.


garoua-base-satellite-image-v2
A satellite image of the U.S. drone base in Garoua, Cameroon.

Photo: Google Maps/DigitalGlobe

ON OCTOBER 12, a vanguard of the Gray Eagle detachment arrived in Garoua. Felix Swaboka, a local journalist who covers the American deployment, told me that 20 U.S. troops set up temporary camp at the Hotel Benoue, while another 80 based themselves in tents and a hangar inside the walled-off Cameroon air force base. Three days later, and one day after President Obama’s notification to Congress, President Biya belatedly announced his agreement to accept an open-ended presence of U.S. troops on Cameroon’s soil. “The government had to reassure people quickly that the Americans were here to cooperate against Boko Haram, because people had already begun to ask questions, like ‘What are they looking for? What’s the real reason?’” Swaboka told me.
The troops maintained a low-key presence, spending their days readying the new base; the 20 lodged at the Benoue returned to the hotel after dark to work on their laptops. Shortly after the troops arrived, the governor of Cameroon’s Nord region called a meeting of traditional chiefs to try to ensure that the locals would welcome the Americans. He assembled the chiefs in a conference room at his headquarters. “The governor told us, ‘The Americans are here for one goal: to assure the security of the population in the battle against terror. Receive them with open arms, let them do their work,’” recalled chief Djoubani Lawan, as we sat together in his sand-filled courtyard on the city’s outskirts. A frail 75-year-old wearing a gown that exposed his thin legs, the chief soaked an infected right foot in a ceramic bowl filled with iodine, and remembered his excitement — and the wariness of his constituents about the new arrivals.
Some Garoua residents were convinced that the U.S. was mainly interested in exploiting oil reserves that are believed to lie along the country’s border with Chad, while others complained that the troops were coming to the war zone too late, pointing to the 1,200 Cameroonian civilians who had already died in Boko Haram incursions from Nigeria. A top opposition politician had echoed these suspicions, stating that “the United States [has] come to defend [its] interests, particularly as regards the Chad-Cameroon pipeline.” He was referring to a multibillion-dollar World Bank-financed project, completed in 2003, that transports petroleum more than 600 miles from three Chadian oil fields to a floating oil facility in the Gulf of Guinea. Lawan urged his followers to put aside their suspicions. “I know only one thing,” he told me. “The Americans are the only power in the world, and their presence here should reassure us.”

hoza-biya

The U.S. ambassador to Cameroon, Michael Hoza, with Cameroonian President Paul Biya on Nov. 5, 2015.

Photo: PRC.com
The U.S. ambassador has made several visits to Garoua in the four months since then, explaining the mission to local officials and ordinary citizens. By contrast, the U.S. troops have kept their contacts with the town to a minimum. They hired local contractors and workers to handle basic services. “I’m working the hardest I’ve ever worked,” I was told by a bespectacled Lebanese man (whose grandparents came to Cameroon decades ago) who said he has a contract to deliver beer and beverages to the base’s PX. The U.S. soldiers initiated a modest outreach campaign, distributing extra rations — canned sardines and tomatoes, fresh barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers — to needy Garoua residents. But because of safety concerns, the soldiers dealt only with a Cameroonian intermediary who loaded up his pickup each day and, with the assistance of traditional chiefs, handed out the food to the poor. When the U.S. soldiers put out word they were looking for domestic animals to keep them company on the base, Lawan, the chief, made a gift of a rabbit, a dog, and a cat — again, delivered through a local intermediary.

“I wanted to have a closer relationship with the Americans, but they have not been open to it,” said Lawan, who has managed only brief glances at the troops through the windows of their vehicles as they speed up the highway to Maroua, the capital of the country’s Extrême Nord region, where a small team of U.S. Special Forces soldiers trains Cameroonian soldiers, according to a journalist who has embedded with the forces along the border.
The Cameroonian workers, paid the equivalent of $10 a day, a generous salary by the standards of the country’s impoverished north, have been given the impression that they can lose their jobs if they divulge any information about the activities on the base. “There’s a trust issue going on now,” the British security man told me. A U.S. military spokesperson insisted, however, that everything is fine.
151224-N-ZZ999-001 GAROUA, Cameroon (Dec. 24, 2015) Construction Electrician 2nd Class Nolan Long, from Livingston, Texas, left, and Utilitiesman 1st Class Kenna Runyon, from Morgantown, W.Va., both assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, replace C-wire with hedge hogs and tie them together with towing cable to be used as soft anchors at an entry control point in Garoua, Cameroon, Dec. 24, 2015. U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Jason McGee/RELEASED)


U.S. troops work at an entry control point in Garoua, Cameroon, Dec. 24, 2015.

Photo: U.S. Navy

DRIVING BACK from the chief’s compound on Garoua’s outskirts, I went by the base, known within the Cameroon military as Air Base 301. It had been built by German contractors several decades ago; Cameroon was a German colony before World War I, and German firms have built bridges, airports, and other parts of the country’s infrastructure. Though deteriorating, the base shares a 2-mile runway with the adjacent commercial airport and is capable of handling Mirage fighter jets and other combat aircraft.
We followed a low pink wall topped by coiled barbed wire that ran for about a mile through the bush. “ATTENTION MILITARY PROPERTY,” signs warned in French. “ENTRY FORBIDDEN. DANGER OF DEATH.” On the other side of the wall, I could make out a control tower and rows of green bungalows with corrugated iron roofs. Inside the facility was the nation’s flight-training school and barracks for some of the Cameroon air force’s 600 troops. The main entrance was marked by a patch of manicured lawn and a jet fighter mounted on a plinth and painted the colors of the Cameroon flag — green, red, and yellow. Six Cameroonian troops stood guard. The U.S. forces and their aircraft were somewhere deep inside the compound, impossible to see from the road.
I asked my driver if we could talk our way inside the base, but he refused; there was “no way,” he said, and he was frightened by the notion of approaching the guards without authorization. Relations between civilians and troops in Garoua have been particularly tense since 2014, when soldiers from Air Base 301 rampaged through a poor neighborhood to avenge the death of a comrade killed by one of the locals. Using rifle butts and batons, they fractured the skulls and broke the bones of some civilians, seriously injuring dozens.
In addition, security has grown especially tight since Boko Haram began attacking military bases along the border north of Garoua. The attacks turned the normally sleepy facility into a hub of military activity. Alpha jets have carried out surveillance of Boko Haram positions from the base, and in December 2014, after jihadis overtook a military camp along the border, President Biya personally ordered an airstrike against them from this base. Fighter jets killed several fighters and drove the rest from the military camp. It was the first time that Cameroon’s air force has been deployed against Boko Haram.
“I’m going to be brutally honest: For me Boko Haram is a good thing,” Col. Barthélémy Tsilla, the commander of Air Base 301, told US Africa News. “It allows me to actually use the aircraft on a real objective and gives me concrete feedback.” He added, “It’s good for the men to know that this is no longer a joke. It’s war.”
Cameroonian soldiers standing guard at the frontier post of Garoua-Boulai, March 13, 2014.

Cameroonian soldiers stand guard at a post on the country’s eastern border, March 13, 2014.

Photo: Reinnier Kaze/AFP/Getty Images

THE AMERICAN MOVE into Cameroon marks a dramatic uptick in the war to contain a terrorist threat that has expanded across central Africa. Boko Haram first took root in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s Borno state, 180 miles northwest of Garoua. Its founder was a self-taught preacher named Mohammed Yusuf, who argued that Western institutions and ideas are haram — forbidden under Islamic law — and called on Muslims to reject the legitimacy of the Nigerian state. After clashes between Yusuf’s armed supporters and Nigerian security forces, Yusuf was arrested and summarily executed in 2009 by Nigeria’s feared Mobile Police. His successor, Abubakar Shekau, who served as the group’s “chief of doctrine,” has led a campaign of violence against the state and anyone perceived as being allied with it. Boko Haram has carried out scores of suicide bombings, burned churches and schools, wiped out villages, and kidnapped thousands of girls and women and turned them into sex slaves. An estimated 20,000 Nigerians have died since the violence began.
Beginning around 2012, the insurgents moved their war into Chad, Niger, and, above all, Cameroon, which emerged as a new and little-known front line in the conflict. The insurgents’ objectives appeared to be threefold: to use the border zones as a refuge from the Nigerian army, which had no right of pursuit across frontiers; to go after potentially lucrative new targets; and to expand their territory with the aim of establishing a caliphate throughout the region. In 2013, Boko Haram fighters kidnapped a Yaoundé-based French oil executive, his wife, and their four children while they were vacationing in Waza National Park in the Extrême Nord region. The French government reportedly paid a ransom of 11 million euros to secure their release. Over the next six months, Boko Haram abducted and ransomed a French priest, two Italian priests, a Canadian nun, and 10 Chinese highway engineers. After the last expatriates fled Cameroon’s north at the end of the year, the group shifted its focus to Cameroonian targets. In one spectacular operation, Boko Haram seized 17 hostages, including the wife of a government minister, in a raid on a Muslim festival in Kolofata, 10 miles from the border.
Though both Nigeria and Cameroon were suffering at the hands of Boko Haram, a long-running territorial dispute blocked efforts to coordinate strategy. The oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, a territory along the Gulf of Guinea that straddles both countries, was the object of repeated clashes between their armies in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2007, the International Court of Justice, backed by the United Nations, ordered Nigeria to cede sovereignty to Cameroon. Though Nigeria withdrew its forces, it regarded the surrender as a humiliation and a violation of its constitution. Nigeria’s popular Guardian newspaper called the forced secession “a rape,” and relations between the neighbors sunk to a low point.
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 17:  (L-R) Niger's president Mahamadou Issoufou, Cameroon's president Paul Biya, Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan, French president Francois Hollande, Chad's president Idriss Deby Itno and Benin's president Thomas Boni Yayi attend a  joint press conference at the end of the Paris Summit for security in Nigeria, Saturday, May 17, 2014, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France.This African security summit is hold to discuss the Boko Haram threat to regional stability.  (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)

(L-R) Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, France’s President Francois Hollande, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno, and Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi at the Paris summit for security in Nigeria, May 17, 2014, in Paris, France.

Photo: Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images
In 2014, with Boko Haram mounting more attacks, a presidential summit in Paris brought together France’s Francois Hollande, Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, Cameroon’s Biya, and their counterparts from Benin, Niger, and Chad. The countries declared collective war on Boko Haram and announced a “global and regional action plan” that, said Hollande, would include “coordinating intelligence, sharing information … border surveillance, a military presence notably around Lake Chad, and the capacity to intervene in case of danger.” The United States also entered the fight, reluctantly at first.

After Boko Haram fighters abducted 276 schoolgirls from a dormitory in the village of Chibok in 2014, the Obama administration deployed surveillance drones, based in N’Djamena, to help the Nigerian army hunt for the missing girls. But reports of extrajudicial killings, torture, and other human rights abuses by the Nigerian military stopped the White House from going any further. The situation changed when the hapless Jonathan was voted out of office last March and replaced by Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator who vowed to clean up the army’s behavior. The Pentagon provided armored vehicles to the Nigerians and dispatched two Cessna surveillance aircraft to Niger to assist a new regional force. Britain, France, China, and Russia also contributed materiel and training.

A Chadian soldier stand guard next to captured arms on April 3, 2015 in Malam Fatori, in northeastern Nigeria, which was retaken from Islamist Boko Haram militants by troops from neighbouring Chad and Niger. Soldiers from Chad and Niger on April 1, drove Boko Haram Islamist militants from the border town that was one of the insurgency's last footholds in northeastern Nigeria.  AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES        (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)

A Chadian solider stands next to captured arms in Malam Fatori, in northeastern Nigeria, which was retaken from Boko Haram by Chadian and Nigerian troops, April 3, 2015.

Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images
Buhari’s ascendancy brought some progress. In 2015, Chad’s army — the toughest in the region — pursued Boko Haram into Nigeria’s Borno state, the first time Chadians traversed the frontier. Under pressure from Chad and the newly supplied Nigerian force, the rebels withdrew from a swath of north Nigeria as large as Belgium, including dozens of villages and towns they had captured from the army in 2014.

But the Nigerian and Cameroonian armies were still not sharing intelligence or crossing into each other’s territory, and Boko Haram refocused its efforts on the weak points along their border. Fifteen months ago, at the start of Cameroon’s dry season, waves of up to 1,000 Boko Haram fighters began pouring across the frontier, catching the Cameroon army blind. Using improvised explosive devices, tanks captured from the Nigerian military, as well as their own technicals — pickup trucks with heavy weapons mounted in their beds — the Islamist fighters inflicted heavy casualties on the Cameroonian troops, and briefly captured military bases and held territory.
In response, the Cameroon army bolstered its front lines with its elite BIR soldiers, conducted its first air assaults on Boko Haram, and carried out counter-IED operations — spotting and disabling roadside bombs — with the help of trainers from the U.S. Special Forces. The direct attacks on military bases died out, but Boko Haram switched to a terrifying new tactic. “They’ve gone from carrying out frontal assaults on the army to kamikaze attacks against civilians,” Lt. Emmanuel Mbede, a Cameroon military spokesperson, told me.
He was not exaggerating. In December 2015, a teenage female suicide bomber killed seven Cameroonians at a mosque in Kolofata, and on January 13, a male bomber killed 13 at dawn prayers at a mosque in nearby Kouyape. Two weeks later, another 32 died and 66 were injured when a pair of female suicide bombers struck a busy marketplace in Bodo, also a few miles from the border. And in February, two young women infiltrated a funeral wake in the village of Nguetchewe, just south of Kouyape, and blew themselves up, killing six and injuring more than 30.
People walk along a main street in Maroua, the capital of the far northern region of Cameroon, on November 11, 2014.


People walk along a main street in Maroua, the capital of the far northern region of Cameroon, on Nov. 11, 2014.

Photo: Reinnier Kaze/AFP/Getty Images

THE SO-CALLED infiltration zone begins a hundred miles to the north of Garoua, reached by a two-lane paved highway that passes through an arid landscape of corn and millet fields, round huts made of mud and thatch, and extinct volcanoes. On the way to Maroua, we passed several gendarme posts, set up to catch Boko Haram infiltrators. Just before reaching the city, we came to a turn-off from the highway. This rough road — where the 10 Chinese engineers were kidnapped in 2013 — runs northwest toward the border and a rugged escarpment that divides Cameroon from Nigeria’s Adamawa state. It is a no-go zone for anyone without military authorization. More than 2,000 Cameroonian troops have established bases along the escarpment, but the area is laced with bush trails that are difficult to patrol; Boko Haram fighters have been able to cross the border almost at will.
We continued another 5 miles or so to Maroua, a poor but lively town straddling the Kaliao River, which turns into a vast field of sand and stagnant water during the dry season. Last July, three teenage girls wearing suicide belts reached Maroua on motor scooters, and turned the Extrême Nord capital into a slaughterhouse. Two of them hid their explosives beneath their burqas and blew themselves up almost simultaneously in the central market, killing a dozen people; three days later, the third bomber detonated herself on a street packed with outdoor bars, killing 21 and injuring 80. The regional government enacted a series of drastic security measures, forbidding women from wearing burqas, closing bars after 6 p.m., organizing neighborhood watch committees, and banning motor scooters from the streets after 8 p.m.

Security forces transport with a blanket the remains of some of the eleven victims of a double blast in the northern Cameroonian city of Maroua on July 22, 2015.  Eleven people were killed on Wednesday in northern Cameroon when two girls blew themselves in twin attacks in a region repeatedly targeted by Nigeria-based Boko Haram jihadists, officials said.  AFP PHOTO/STRINGER        (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Security forces transport the remains of some of the 11 victims of a double suicide bombing in Maroua on July 22, 2015.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images
I rode on the back of a motorbike through Maroua on a Saturday morning, dodging sheep and mangy dogs. Soukous, a lively music imported from the Democratic Republic of Congo, wafted from flimsy stalls. In a sign of heightened security, troops in pickup trucks threaded their way past the town’s ubiquitous scooters. We passed the ramshackle bar in the Pont Vert quarter where the third bomber had blown herself up, but there was no longer any sign of the carnage. The market where a dozen had died had also returned to normal. Aside from the stepped-up military presence, the main indications of Maroua’s vulnerable position on the edge of the infiltration zone were the stickers displayed in all the city’s taxi cabs: “Be vigilant against Boko Haram,” they declared in French.

That evening, I sat in the courtyard of the Hotel Sahel, dining on roasted chicken and plantains in the company of a Cameroonian military officer who was a frequent visitor to the infiltration zone. The new multinational force had gotten up and running in November, he said, adding that most of the soldiers belonged to the BIR — “among the best troops in Cameroon.” But other sources told me that the multinational force had been beset by internal feuding. The Nigerian military was demanding a leadership role, and the Chadians and Cameroonians were resisting. The feuding had slowed the integration of the three nations’ soldiers into a single unit; the “multinational force” along Cameroon’s border, for example, was still almost entirely made up of Cameroonians, and by the time I caught up with the officer in mid-January, it had made only four brief incursions into Nigeria.
In mid-February, however, the Cameroon contingent made its deepest penetration into Nigeria since the cross-border actions began. Using surveillance and intelligence data provided by the U.S. drones that flew out of Garoua, and working for the first time in tandem with the Nigerian army, the BIR troops broke through two defensive lines of Boko Haram fighters and pushed into the Islamist stronghold of Ngoshe, 10 miles inside Nigeria. There they found a hastily abandoned Boko Haram camp with food still on the tables, along with bomb-making factories packed with equipment, chemicals, and suicide vests. They freed dozens of women and children from both Cameroon and Nigeria who had been held prisoner, according to a statement from Cameroon’s government. The Western diplomat said that surveillance imagery from the U.S. drones had played a key role.
“This gave [the force] a 21st-century advantage,” he told me. “It was an absolute game changer.”
Yet the new coordination is still a work in progress, he conceded. A critical question remains unresolved: Who should control the data obtained by the U.S. drones? Over the last couple of years, British, French, and U.S. intelligence units — based in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, and Maroua as well as N’Djamena in Chad — have acted as clearinghouses for intelligence about Boko Haram. These units analyze imagery obtained from overflights as well as reports from prisoner interrogations, and they work hand in hand with the Nigerian military. Though the Gray Eagles are based in Cameroon, the Nigerian government has been flexing its muscles about being the “first point of information,” according to the diplomat. Attempts are being made to place liaison officers from these intelligence units on the ground with Nigerian forces, to gain instant approval from the Nigerians to share the data with Cameroonian troops and other members of the multinational force. The intel sharing worked during the Ngoshe operation, the diplomat said, but there’s no guarantee that it will continue.
These squabbles among regional powers about who is in control of the ground action and who gets the intelligence are a sign of how complicated drone warfare can be, and how human frailty — ego, mistrust, rivalry — can stand in the way. Another barrier is the history of violence by the Nigerian military. President Buhari has fired top officers accused of abuses, but the military has a longstanding reputation for brutality and is accused of the torture and murder of thousands of civilians in Boko Haram territory. There is a clear danger that the new surveillance capabilities provided by U.S. drones could lead to more lethal violence being inflicted against non-combatants in the war zone.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES


A Gray Eagle MQ-1C drone above Garoua, Cameroon, Jan. 22, 2016

Photo: Ernest Djonga
LA DERNIÈRE ESCALE — The Last Stop — is a ramshackle bar adjacent to Air Base 301 on the northern edge of town, and it has become the most popular place in Garoua to witness America’s unfolding high-tech drone war. Owned by a Cameroon air force officer, the shabby establishment drew dozens of drone watchers in the first few weeks after the Americans arrived. Since those heady days, the thrill has dissipated. “Most people have gotten used to them,” said Felix Swaboka, the journalist. But I was new in town, and made a beeline for The Last Stop soon after I arrived.
Swaboka and I set up a table and chairs in the large dirt parking lot, and ordered beer from a sullen waitress who demanded that we pay first. Across the lot, troops and civilians were drinking and listening to music beneath a corrugated metal roof held up by rough logs. It was an unlikely post from which to observe one of America’s most sensitive, sophisticated military missions. Soon we were joined by four of Swaboka’s colleagues, including Ernest Djonga, a haggard man in his 50s who lived in a house a few hundred yards away.
Djonga could barely contain his excitement as he explained that on the previous afternoon, at 4:30, he was relaxing at home when he heard the purr of an engine overhead. He looked up to see the unmistakable outlines of a Gray Eagle drone sweeping across the cloudless sky. The drone was returning to the U.S. base, apparently from a run over the infiltration zone. Djonga stared at the Gray Eagle in amazement, marveling at its thin and elongated wings, its bulbous nose, and its V-shaped tail — a design that he regarded as both sleek and sinister.
“It circled around three times,” he told me, gesticulating emphatically. “It made a noise, not as loud as a jet, and it was blinking its lights as if it was a car, signaling.”
Djonga dashed into his house, grabbed his camera, and shot two photos of the drone. He showed them to me on his camera’s display panel, as his colleagues gathered around, nodding and whistling. Then we finished our beers, took in the music, and waited for the Gray Eagle to make an encore appearance. The first stars appeared in the darkening sky, the moon rose, and it became clear, under the empty skies, that we would be disappointed.
For Djonga and the others drinking with me that night, the U.S. drone base evoked complex emotions. They were elated that Cameroon had not been abandoned in its fight against Islamic terrorism, they told me, and they seemed thrilled to be witnessing a complex military mission unfolding on their doorstep. But the drones sweeping overhead also reminded them of Cameroon’s poverty and powerlessness, and heightened their sense of being pawns in a global game. “You Americans are kings of the world, you have no borders,” Djonga said. “All we can do is go along.”
 

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Joshua Hammer
 
source: https://theintercept.com/2016/02/25/us-extends-drone-war-deeper-into-africa-with-secretive-base/