Pentagon says China's armed forces are 'likely training for strikes' on US targets

Pentagon says China's armed forces are 'likely training for strikes' on US targetsChina’s military has expanded its bomber operations in recent years while “likely training for strikes” against the United States and its allies, according to a Pentagon report released on Thursday. The assessment, which comes at a time of heightened US-China tensions over trade, was contained in an annual report that highlighted China’s efforts to increase its global influence, with defence spending that the Pentagon estimates exceeded $190 billion in 2017. “Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report said, using an acronym for China’s People’s Liberation Army. The report comes as China and the United States plan to hold trade talks, offering hope they might resolve an escalating tariff conflict that threatens to degenerate into an all-out trade war. The report said that while the PLA had continued to extend operations, it was not clear what message Beijing was seeking to send by carrying out the flights “beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities”. An Ilyushin Il-76 strategic aircraft of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army  Credit: Tass via Getty Images The Chinese embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment. This year China’s air force landed bombers on islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the disputed region. In January the Pentagon put countering Beijing, along with Russia, at the center of a new national defense strategy. While Washington and Beijing maintain a military-to-military relationship aimed at containing tensions, this has been tested in recent months, notably in May when the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to join a multinational naval exercise. The Liaoning aircraft carrier is accompanied by navy frigates and submarines conducting an exercises in the South China Sea Credit: Xinhua via AP In June, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis became the first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014. The Pentagon report said that despite a projected slowdown in economic growth, China’s official defence budget would be more than $240 billion by 2028. The Pentagon report also said China’s space program was progressing rapidly. “The PLA continues to strengthen its military space capabilities despite its public stance against the militarization of space,” it said. This month, President Donald Trump’s administration announced an ambitious plan to usher in a new “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the military by 2020. One of the arguments in favour of developing such a force is that American rivals like China appear increasingly ready to strike US space-based capabilities in the event of a conflict. 


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Pentagon says China military 'likely training for strikes' on U.S. targets

Pentagon says China military 'likely training for strikes' on U.S. targetsThe assessment, which comes at a time of heightened U.S.-China tensions over trade, was contained in an annual report that highlighted China’s efforts to increase its global influence, with defense spending that the Pentagon estimates exceeded $190 billion in 2017. “Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets,” the report said, using an acronym for China’s People’s Liberation Army. The report comes as China and the United States plan to hold trade talks, offering hope they might resolve an escalating tariff conflict that threatens to degenerate into an all-out trade war.


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New Mexico fugitive 'was training child to carry out school shootings'

New Mexico fugitive 'was training child to carry out school shootings'A man arrested in New Mexico last week on child abuse and abduction charges was training one of the 11 children at his remote desert encampment to carry out a school shooting, prosecutors have claimed. Siraj Wahhaj, 39, appeared before a magistrate in Taos, New Mexico, on Wednesday. He was arrested on Friday after police, searching for his missing four-year-old son Abdul-Ghani, raided the compound and found 11 starving, filthy children with five adults. Wahhaj and the four others – his wife Jany Leveille, 38, his sisters, Subhannah, 35, and Hujrah, 38, and Subhannah’s husband Lucas Morten – were charged with 11 counts of child abuse. Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, who arrested Wahhaj and his associates after a day-long armed standoff, said his men planned “a tactical approach for our own safety, because we had learned the occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief.” The remote desert camp in New Mexico, which was raided on Friday The remains of a young boy, believed to be Wahhaj’s missing son, was found buried on the property, Mr Hogrefe said on Tuesday. On Wednesday it emerged that one of the 11 children taken into care had, according to prosecutors, told their foster parents that Wahhaj trained them to carry out a school shooting. The child was allegedly taught to fire an assault rifle, in readiness for the mission.  Tim Hasson, a prosecutor with the district court in Taos, requested that Wahhaj, son of a prominent Brooklyn imam, remain in custody and that his case be moved to the district court. His office has also filed motions to hold the other four defendants. The saga began in December, when Wahhaj told the boy’s mother he was taking their severely disabled child, unable to walk, to the park. A poster from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shows Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, left, and his father Siraj Wahhaj Credit:  National Center for Missing & Exploited Children He never returned to their home in Georgia, and the boy’s mother reported it to the police, saying Wahhaj intended to perform an “exorcism” on his son because Abdul-Ghani was “possessed by the Devil.” She later said that “exorcism” was a mistranslation, and that Wahhaj simply wanted to pray for his son. New Mexico authorities had long suspected the father and son might be at the compound after learning about the abduction in May, said Mr Hogrefe. But there was not enough evidence for a search warrant, and surveillance of the property did not identify the pair there. That changed on Thursday, when they received a note from inside the compound saying they were starving and thirsty. Mr Hogrefe said his men found Wahhaj in a “partly buried camper trailer” with two women and several of the children.  Wahhaj refused to come out with his hands up, and when investigators opened the door, they found Wahhaj “was armed with a loaded revolver in his pocket,” and was “wearing a belt with five loaded 30-round AR15 magazines in pouches on the belt.”  Next to Wahhaj was a loaded AR15, according to Mr Hogrefe’s affidavit.  Wahhaj refused to give his name or identify anyone with him. He declined to say anything about his son Abdul’s whereabouts, according to the court document.  Investigators found a 100-foot tunnel on the north side of the buried trailer, about three feet in diameter with two dugout “pockets” containing bedding, Mr Hogrefe said. Another enclosure made of straw and tires housed a makeshift toilet. There was no running water.   On the compound was a powerful Marlin 30-30 rifle with a scope, other guns, ammunition, a laptop, camcorder, and a Penguin child’s nebulizer used to turn medicine into mist. Morten was arrested at the front of the property and initially charged with harbouring a fugitive. The child abuse charges were added later. “The living conditions, health and wellbeing of the children were deemed deplorable,” said Mr Hogrefe. “They had no clean water, food or electricity; dirty clothing, poor hygiene, and had not eaten or taken nutrition in what was believed to be days.”


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New Mexico child abuse suspects accused of training children for shootings

New Mexico child abuse suspects accused of training children for shootingsBy Andrew Hay TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – Two men charged in the abuse of 11 youths found malnourished at a ramshackle compound in New Mexico were training the children with firearms to commit school shootings, prosecutors said in court documents filed in the case on Wednesday. One of the suspects, identified as Huraj Wahhaj, is the father of a young boy whose disappearance from his home near Atlanta months ago prompted the investigation that led authorities to raid the compound, located north of Taos, New Mexico, last week. Wahhaj, a second man accused of harboring him as a fugitive, Lucas Morton, and three women presumed to be the mothers of the 11 children, who were taken into protective custody from the compound, were each charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse.


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New Mexico child abuse suspects accused of training children for shootings

New Mexico child abuse suspects accused of training children for shootingsBy Andrew Hay TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – Two men charged in the abuse of 11 youths found malnourished at a ramshackle compound in New Mexico were training the children with firearms to commit school shootings, prosecutors said in court documents filed in the case on Wednesday. One of the suspects, identified as Huraj Wahhaj, is the father of a young boy whose disappearance from his home near Atlanta months ago prompted the investigation that led authorities to raid the compound, located north of Taos, New Mexico, last week. Wahhaj, a second man accused of harboring him as a fugitive, Lucas Morton, and three women presumed to be the mothers of the 11 children, who were taken into protective custody from the compound, were each charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse.


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