Barcelona attacks: Spanish royals join memorial for victims

Spain united in grief Sunday as hundreds gathered at Barcelona’s famous Sagrada Familia to mourn those who lost their lives in last week’s terror attack.

King Felipe and Queen Letizia joined hundreds of others to pray for the 14 people killed in Barcelona and Cambrils.

The memorial service comes three days after a a van plowed into pedestrians on Las Ramblas in the heart of Barcelona, killing 13 and injuring 120.

Early Friday, a group of five attackers wearing fake suicide belts drove into pedestrians in Cambrils, killing one and injuring six

Police shot all five assailants dead but said late Friday it was “increasingly unlikely” that the Barcelona driver was among them, Reuters reported.

Manhunt underway

On Saturday, a Catalan police spokesman confirmed the names of three of the five suspects killed in Cambrils as Moussa Oukabir, Said Aallaa and Mohamed Hychami.

He also said that Younes Abouyaaqoub, who’s wanted in connection with the Barcelona attack, remains on the run. Spanish media report that Abouyaaqoub is a 22-year-old Moroccan national.

Authorities said the terror cell involved in the attacks — believed to number about 12 members — has been “completely dismantled,” Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoida said Saturday.

Eight of the 12 lived in Ripoll, a city north of Barcelona. Three were arrested, one is unaccounted for, and another is one of the dead suspects, Oukabir. Another arrest was made in the village of Alcanar.

CNN reporters went to Oukabir’s apartment in Ripoll. A neighbor, Raimon Garcia, said Oukabir was one of four siblings — two brothers and two sisters.

Oukabir’s brother, Driss, was among those arrested. He turned himself into police when his identification was found in the Barcelona van, telling authorities he wasn’t involved in the attack.

A man who claimed to be a cousin of the brothers said Moussa Oukabir was “brainwashed.”

A woman who lives next to a mosque in the neighborhood told CNN that she had witnessed the Oukabir brothers attending the place of worship “every day for many years.”

Bulldozer clears rubble in Alcanar

The ruins of the house in Alcanar, a quiet beach town about 125 miles (201 kilometers) south of Barcelona, may hold the key to unraveling the plans and methods of the terror cell.

Police suspect the property was being used as a base to make explosives that could have caused even more devastating attacks in Barcelona, Cambrils and possibly elsewhere had they not blown up prematurely.

Explosives experts brought in a bulldozer Saturday to clear rubble before conducting a number of controlled explosions at the site in Alcanar’s Montecarlo area.

The city’s vice mayor, Jordi Bort, told CNN the house belonged to a bank and the group had been squatting there illegally without its knowledge.

The town is home to a mix of yearlong residents and others who just spend holidays or weekends here, he said. Neighbors said they did not suspect any wrongdoing at the property.

The septic tank of the house, which had only one floor, was used as storage for the tanks and explosives, Bort said.

Police said Friday there were other “biological remains” found at the site, but it is unclear whether they belong to someone other than the person confirmed dead there.

Source: Traces of TATP found

Wednesday’s explosion meant the attackers were unable to use material they were planning to deploy in the attacks, Catalan police Chief Josep Lluis Trapero said Friday.

The attack in Barcelona, capital of the Spanish region of Catalonia, was therefore “more rudimentary than they originally planned,” Trapero said.

Trapero said the suspects in Alcanar had been trying to “make explosives out of butane gas among other things.”

A source briefed on the investigation said a preliminary assessment indicated there were traces of the powerful explosive TATP in the rubble.

TATP is made by adding an acid to a mixture of acetone and hydrogen peroxide solution and can easily result in accidental detonation if mistakes occur in the preparation.

TATP was used in the November 2015 Paris attacks, the March 2016 Brussels bombings and the May bombing in Manchester, England.

Many of those who have successfully made TATP received some form of terrorist training.

ISIS issued a formal claim of responsibility for the two attacks Saturday. However, the extremist group did not provide any proof it carried out the attack or provide the names of the attackers or the number of them. There are also inconsistencies between ISIS’ statement and the police version of events.

Inspector Albert Oliva, a spokesman for Catalan police, told CNN that investigators are still trying to determine what materials were in the home.

“We need to analyze carefully what caused the explosion, the elements that were inside the house,” Oliva said.

A bomb factory in a beach town may be key to Spain’s terror attacks

Nuria Gil had heard rumors of men squatting in a vacant property around the corner from her home, but she had never seen them herself.

She had little reason to be suspicious — the quiet Spanish beach village where she has lived for almost 20 years is filled with holiday houses. People come and go all the time.

But on Wednesday night a deafening bang rocked Gil, 50, from her sleep. She ran outside to see smoke billowing from what remained of the property down the road.

The powerful explosion had leveled the one-story house in the Montecarlo neighborhood of Alcanar, leaving one person dead and another seriously injured.

It wasn’t until the following afternoon, when a van mowed down crowds of people in the heart of Barcelona, that authorities began to piece together the significance of the blast.

Center of investigation

The house in Alcanar is now at the center of a wide-ranging investigation into a previously unknown terror cell believed to be behind last week’s attacks in the Catalan capital and in the coastal town of Cambrils.

Police suspect the property was being used as a base to make explosives that could have caused even greater devastation, had they not blown up in what investigators believe was a premature explosion.

A secondary uncontrolled blast on Thursday afternoon blew out a window in Gil’s house and left rocks strewn across her yard.

Standing on her front porch, tape from a police cordon fluttering nearby in the wind, Gil says she was shocked to learn that the suspects had been hiding in plain sight just meters away.

“It was a surprise and we were very scared,” says Gil. “It’s a good community, very tranquil, we never thought we would have terrorists here.”

She is exhausted following days of controlled explosions in the neighborhood, conducted by authorities as part of their investigation.

“I feel very tired, it’s a feeling of being powerless … angry,” Gil says, tears welling up in her eyes. “This is the first time something of this magnitude has happened and I hope it’s the last.”

The ideal location

The municipality of Alcanar, 120 miles southwest along the coast from Barcelona, is made up of a string of sleepy beach towns, home to around 9,000 people — a mix of year-long residents and others who spend the occasional weekend here.

The tourists who pass through each summer are drawn to a sandy coastline dotted with orange groves and olive trees.

For the suspects believed to be part of the terror cell, it offered an ideal location to plot their attacks away from prying eyes.

Alcanar’s vice-mayor, Jordi Bort, told CNN that the house the men were squatting in was owned by a bank, which did not know that people were residing there illegally. The house’s septic tank was used as storage for the explosives, Bort said.

A source briefed on the investigation said a preliminary assessment indicated there were traces of the powerful explosive TATP in the rubble. Used in recent terror attacks across Europe, including those in Brussels and Manchester, TATP can easily result in accidental detonation if mistakes are made during its preparation.

Police said Friday there were other “biological remains” found at the site, but it is unclear whether they belong to someone other than the one person confirmed dead.

The roof of the nearby Hostal Montecarlo overlooks homes that were damaged in the explosion, their facades pockmarked and windows blown out. Bikers buzz past the scene of the investigation on the coastal road as armed police patrol the area. On the other side of the hotel, facing the sea, a pool sits idle.

Inside the hotel, Cristina Bolz is standing behind the bar making espressos for a handful of journalists and tourists.

Bolz, who has been working at Hostal Montecarlo for nearly 40 years, says that local residents frequent the hotel for drinks, mingling with tourists.

A few people sit at tables in the hotel’s restaurant, watching the news, which is broadcasting the latest updates on the investigation.

“It’s a small town, quiet, relaxing,” Bolz says, in between taking orders. “People are very nice.”

Tourists react

It’s precisely the type of atmosphere that the Schenks — tourists from Stuttgart, Germany — were seeking when they booked a three-week holiday in Alcanar.

Unknown to them, the Schenks’ rental was just a few doors down from the suspects’ property. They were sitting in their living room on Wednesday night when the blast rattled their rental home.

“We saw two big fire balls and heard a loud boom,” Juliane Schenk, 17, says.

“It’s been an adventure holiday,” her mother Sabine adds with a cautious laugh.

Less than a mile down the road, retirees sunbathe and children play soccer on Playa Cementera, a beach that lies in the shadow of an imposing cement factory. When the explosion went off four days ago, many people here immediately assumed the factory was the source.

Josep Romera, 30, and Elena Gonzalez, 36, are playing in the surf with their four-year-old son.

They came to Alcanar for a getaway.

“This is a quiet area, more quiet than the area where we live in Girona, the beaches are very touristic there,” Romera says.

In the wake of the blast, Romera says that Alcanar’s annual eight-day Festa Major has been canceled. The local festival, popular among tourists and which boasts its own running of the bulls, was shutdown as a precaution following the spate of attacks.

“It is very sad what happened in Barcelona and what happened here, and it is very scary,” Romera says. “There is fear… a lot of fear… it can happen here, there… you never know.”

North Korea warns of ‘merciless strike’ ahead of US-South Korea drills

North Korea warned Sunday that the upcoming US-South Korea military exercises are “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”

Pyongyang also declared that its army can target the United States anytime, and neither Guam, Hawaii nor the US mainland can “dodge the merciless strike.”

The messages in Rodong Sinmun, the official government newspaper, come a day before the US starts the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises with South Korea on Monday.

Tensions between the two nations have grown in recent weeks, forcing China to step in and urge restraint.

Just last week, Pyongyang said it had finalized a plan to fire four missiles toward the US territory of Guam. State media reported that leader Kim Jong Un would assess the US’ next move before giving launch orders.

“The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK … is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war,” the paper said, using the acronym for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the nation’s official name.

It described North Korea as the “strongest possessor” of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the US mainland from anywhere.

“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies. It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted,” it said.

It did not provide any details on what it meant by “preventive war.”

Military exercises to continue

Last week, a top US general said military exercises with South Korea are not up for negotiation.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters during a visit to Beijing there would no scaling back of planned military exercises despite the recent tensions with North Korea.

The annual drills antagonize Pyongyang, which sees them as practice for an invasion. However, the US and South Korea maintain they are purely defensive.

As tensions escalate, South Korean President Moon Jae-in promised his citizens last week there “will be no war on the Korean Peninsula ever again.”

Moon, who took office in May, announced on his 100th day in office that US and South Korean policies are aligned on North Korea.

US President Donald Trump assured South Korea he would consult with them before making any military decisions on North Korea, according to Moon.

Moon said North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons technology was “nearing” a red line, which he described as “completing an ICBM and weaponizing it with a nuclear head.”

North Korea claims it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon. While some experts believe it may have the technology, others caution that even if it doesn’t, North Korea should be taken at its word.

“If North Korea provokes again, it will face with much harsher sanction and won’t stand it in the end. I want to warn North Korea to do no more dangerous gambling,” Moon said.

His comments about averting war echoed similar statements he made Tuesday that only South Korea could give consent to initiate any conflict with the North.

“The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means,” Moon said.

North Korea warns of ‘merciless strike’ ahead of US-South Korea drills

North Korea warned Sunday that the upcoming US-South Korea military exercises are “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”

Pyongyang also declared that its army can target the United States anytime, and neither Guam, Hawaii nor the US mainland can “dodge the merciless strike.”

The messages in Rodong Sinmun, the official government newspaper, come a day before the US starts the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises with South Korea on Monday.

Tensions between the two nations have grown in recent weeks, forcing China to step in and urge restraint.

Just last week, Pyongyang said it had finalized a plan to fire four missiles toward the US territory of Guam. State media reported that leader Kim Jong Un would assess the US’ next move before giving launch orders.

“The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK … is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war,” the paper said, using the acronym for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the nation’s official name.

It described North Korea as the “strongest possessor” of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the US mainland from anywhere.

“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies. It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted,” it said.

It did not provide any details on what it meant by “preventive war.”

Military exercises to continue

Last week, a top US general said military exercises with South Korea are not up for negotiation.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters during a visit to Beijing there would no scaling back of planned military exercises despite the recent tensions with North Korea.

The annual drills antagonize Pyongyang, which sees them as practice for an invasion. However, the US and South Korea maintain they are purely defensive.

As tensions escalate, South Korean President Moon Jae-in promised his citizens last week there “will be no war on the Korean Peninsula ever again.”

Moon, who took office in May, announced on his 100th day in office that US and South Korean policies are aligned on North Korea.

US President Donald Trump assured South Korea he would consult with them before making any military decisions on North Korea, according to Moon.

Moon said North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons technology was “nearing” a red line, which he described as “completing an ICBM and weaponizing it with a nuclear head.”

North Korea claims it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon. While some experts believe it may have the technology, others caution that even if it doesn’t, North Korea should be taken at its word.

“If North Korea provokes again, it will face with much harsher sanction and won’t stand it in the end. I want to warn North Korea to do no more dangerous gambling,” Moon said.

His comments about averting war echoed similar statements he made Tuesday that only South Korea could give consent to initiate any conflict with the North.

“The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means,” Moon said.

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Receives World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Accreditation

Published August 20, 2017 CLOQUET, MINNESOTA – Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has received accreditation by the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium. After publishing a comprehensive self-study document and hosting an intensive campus site visit in April 2017, the official recommendation for ten-year unconditional accreditation was awarded to Fond du Lac Tribal and Community […]

The post Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Receives World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Accreditation appeared first on Native News Online.

‘Ready to fight’: Motto of US air base closest to North Korea

The first flight takes off from Osan Air Base just after daybreak, ascending high above the Korean Peninsula to collect and send critical data back to US military headquarters in South Korea.

Dubbed the “Dragon Lady” but also known as the Lockheed U-2, the sleek, ebony aircraft is capable of flying 70,000 feet above sea level — in what’s known as near space.

As North Korea boasts about advances in its nuclear weaponry and having missiles ready to hit near the US territory of Guam, the Dragon Lady is the spy plane of choice in helping Washington assess the true threat.

“We’re busier here than we’ve been probably in the last 10 years,” said Lt. Col. James Bartran, a veteran U-2 pilot who leads the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Base, the US Air Force’s closest base to North Korea, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from its border.

The mission is clear — to keep their eyes and ears on North Korea.

“Everything that this aircraft is sending is almost instantaneously sent down to people who can process, exploit and disseminate that information within minutes to our leadership,” Bartran told CNN, which was granted access to Osan Air Base.

High-altitude spy plane

First taking flight during the Cold War in the 1950s, the Dragon Lady was built to fly so high that it couldn’t be detected by Soviet planes.

Newer models of the aircraft have been modernized with new sensors and cameras.

At $250 million a piece, the piloted spy planes are equipped to handle a variety of intelligence gathering tasks that newer unmanned aircraft like drones can’t do alone. It makes the Dragon Lady a critical asset in detecting what the North Koreans are really up to.

“We provide what’s called multi-in (intelligence). We’re the only true multi-in in the theater,” Bartran explained. “We can both see and hear things at the same time.”

In the months since Donald Trump became US President, the rhetoric between North Korea and the US has intensified. Both sides have threatened the other with total annihilation.

The bellicose language has been dialed back for now — with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holding off on a plan to strike near Guam, a decision President Donald Trump called “very wise and well reasoned.”

But the unpredictability of both leaders could mean tensions could escalate — and possibly boil over — at any time.

The Dragon Lady’s presence over the Korean Peninsula, Bartran explained, is to ensure the US has the information it needs to act or respond. The intelligence the jet sends back to Washington could mean the difference between peace and war.

On Thursday, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned it would be “game on” if North Korea sent a missile towards US territory or any of its allies.

“I can assure you that, in close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities,” Mattis said.

Some of those “consequences” would likely originate from Osan Air Base. In addition to housing Dragon Lady spy planes, it’s also the base for two squadrons of F-16 fighter jets — whose pilots train with the motto to be “ready to fight tonight.”

‘Ferrari’ of planes

A third F-16 squadron is stationed at Kunsan, the other US Air Force base in South Korea.

“This is Ferrari — that is the best way to describe this thing,” Maj. Daniel Trueblood, a F-16 pilot from the 36th Squadron said as he proudly showed off his fighter jet.

He boasted about the aircraft’s supersonic speed — saying it can move at 16 miles per minute.

That means that if either the US decided launch an attack or respond to one from North Korea, the F-16s — which can carry long- and short-range missiles as well as bombs — could in theory get from Osan Air Base into North Korean airspace in under three minutes.

Like the spy plane pilots, the F-16 squadrons train daily over the Korean Peninsula — simulating battles during both day and night. CNN watched as a dozen F-16s took off from Osan on a training exercise.

“We don’t know when something’s going to happen or what we’re going to called on to do, so we need to make sure that across the board we’re ready to execute, pretty much at any time,” Trueblood told CNN. “We prepare every day like tonight is the night.”

He compared the role the F-16s would play in a battle to that of an offensive lineman’s in American football.

“We go out as the overall package so load up the jet with both air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, with the HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) we would shoot,” Trueblood said.

“Our job is to have the enemy target us with both their air-to-air threat and their surface-to-air threat, and we basically protect everybody else, so we want them to target us.”

Despite all the rumblings of potential combat, officials from South Korea and the US insist they’d rather talk than resume hostilities with North Korea.

But Pyongyang’s defiant stance has caused concern among many that the current war of words could easily escalate into action.

The pilots at Osan Air Base say if it does, they’re ready.

“The mission has always been very clear and dictated down to me that we are ready to fight,” Trueblood said.

‘Ready to fight’: Motto of US air base closest to North Korea

The first flight takes off from Osan Air Base just after daybreak, ascending high above the Korean Peninsula to collect and send critical data back to US military headquarters in South Korea.

Dubbed the “Dragon Lady” but also known as the Lockheed U-2, the sleek, ebony aircraft is capable of flying 70,000 feet above sea level — in what’s known as near space.

As North Korea boasts about advances in its nuclear weaponry and having missiles ready to hit near the US territory of Guam, the Dragon Lady is the spy plane of choice in helping Washington assess the true threat.

“We’re busier here than we’ve been probably in the last 10 years,” said Lt. Col. James Bartran, a veteran U-2 pilot who leads the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Base, the US Air Force’s closest base to North Korea, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from its border.

The mission is clear — to keep their eyes and ears on North Korea.

“Everything that this aircraft is sending is almost instantaneously sent down to people who can process, exploit and disseminate that information within minutes to our leadership,” Bartran told CNN, which was granted access to Osan Air Base.

High-altitude spy plane

First taking flight during the Cold War in the 1950s, the Dragon Lady was built to fly so high that it couldn’t be detected by Soviet planes.

Newer models of the aircraft have been modernized with new sensors and cameras.

At $250 million a piece, the piloted spy planes are equipped to handle a variety of intelligence gathering tasks that newer unmanned aircraft like drones can’t do alone. It makes the Dragon Lady a critical asset in detecting what the North Koreans are really up to.

“We provide what’s called multi-in (intelligence). We’re the only true multi-in in the theater,” Bartran explained. “We can both see and hear things at the same time.”

In the months since Donald Trump became US President, the rhetoric between North Korea and the US has intensified. Both sides have threatened the other with total annihilation.

The bellicose language has been dialed back for now — with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holding off on a plan to strike near Guam, a decision President Donald Trump called “very wise and well reasoned.”

But the unpredictability of both leaders could mean tensions could escalate — and possibly boil over — at any time.

The Dragon Lady’s presence over the Korean Peninsula, Bartran explained, is to ensure the US has the information it needs to act or respond. The intelligence the jet sends back to Washington could mean the difference between peace and war.

On Thursday, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned it would be “game on” if North Korea sent a missile towards US territory or any of its allies.

“I can assure you that, in close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities,” Mattis said.

Some of those “consequences” would likely originate from Osan Air Base. In addition to housing Dragon Lady spy planes, it’s also the base for two squadrons of F-16 fighter jets — whose pilots train with the motto to be “ready to fight tonight.”

‘Ferrari’ of planes

A third F-16 squadron is stationed at Kunsan, the other US Air Force base in South Korea.

“This is Ferrari — that is the best way to describe this thing,” Maj. Daniel Trueblood, a F-16 pilot from the 36th Squadron said as he proudly showed off his fighter jet.

He boasted about the aircraft’s supersonic speed — saying it can move at 16 miles per minute.

That means that if either the US decided launch an attack or respond to one from North Korea, the F-16s — which can carry long- and short-range missiles as well as bombs — could in theory get from Osan Air Base into North Korean airspace in under three minutes.

Like the spy plane pilots, the F-16 squadrons train daily over the Korean Peninsula — simulating battles during both day and night. CNN watched as a dozen F-16s took off from Osan on a training exercise.

“We don’t know when something’s going to happen or what we’re going to called on to do, so we need to make sure that across the board we’re ready to execute, pretty much at any time,” Trueblood told CNN. “We prepare every day like tonight is the night.”

He compared the role the F-16s would play in a battle to that of an offensive lineman’s in American football.

“We go out as the overall package so load up the jet with both air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, with the HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) we would shoot,” Trueblood said.

“Our job is to have the enemy target us with both their air-to-air threat and their surface-to-air threat, and we basically protect everybody else, so we want them to target us.”

Despite all the rumblings of potential combat, officials from South Korea and the US insist they’d rather talk than resume hostilities with North Korea.

But Pyongyang’s defiant stance has caused concern among many that the current war of words could easily escalate into action.

The pilots at Osan Air Base say if it does, they’re ready.

“The mission has always been very clear and dictated down to me that we are ready to fight,” Trueblood said.