Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A Greek national pleaded guilty Tuesday to offering to supply high-powered weapons to a Colombian terrorist group, which he thought would use them to target American troops, in exchange for drugs. The only problem was, he was unwittingly dealing with the Drug Enforcement Administration all along, according to federal officials.
Ioannis Viglakis, also known as “Pablo,” was arrested in Panama last August but recently struck a deal with the government to plead guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC. Viglakis faces up to 15 years in prison.
Court records show Viglakis held secret meetings in Europe and Central America with an associate he thought was connected to FARC, but was actually a DEA confidential source. During the meetings, Viglakis offered to provide FARC with “military-grade weapons — including assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers and surface-to-air missiles – in exchange for cocaine and cash,” the DEA said.
Federal officials said Viglakis discussed how to use the weapons, including the targeting of American aircraft in Colombia. Later, Viglakis arranged for the DEA source to receive several live RPGs in Europe.
“This investigation clearly demonstrates DEA’s unique ability to disrupt and dismantle the arms-trafficking networks that supply weapons to the most significant global narco-terror organizations,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement. “DEA will continue to aggressively pursue international arms dealers and narco-terrorists who are focused on harming our nation’s security.”
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States has stopped non-lethal aid to northern Syria after the Islamic front seized a supply warehouse and headquarters facility of the Supreme Military Council, the U.S.-backed moderate opposition military group.
“We’re obviously concerned that Islamic Front forces have seized the Atmeh headquarters and warehouses belonging to the SMC, and we are, of course, in close contact with General Idris and the SMC about these events,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at Wednesday’s daily press briefing. “We’re gathering the facts, consulting with friends in the Syrian opposition on the next steps we can do in support of the Syrian people.”
The State Department is now in touch with the council to “inventory” what was in the warehouse and is “working closely” with Supreme Military Council leader Gen. Salim Idris.
“We’re, of course, evaluating what was included in there,” Psaki said, noting that it would have included things like meal kits and laptops.
The move will only affect aid to Syrian rebels, not humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, Psaki said.
“Humanitarian assistance is distributed, as you all know, through international nongovernment organizations, including the U.N., and that is not impacted. That assistance is not impacted by this,” Psaki said Wednesday.
The United States and allies have sought to bolster the SMC, the command network for Gen. Idris’ Free Syrian Army, as Syria’s “moderate opposition” over other groups, announcing $500 million in non-lethal support in April.
The State Department confirmed last week that it has been talking to “some Islamist groups” in Syria, and while Psaki wouldn’t confirm Wednesday that the United States is talking to the Islamic Front – an umbrella coalition announced last month, as The New York Times reported, that is reportedly the largest rebel group in Syria – she reiterated that the United States is engaged with a “broad cross-section of Syrian people and political and military leaders.”
The Islamic Front is not the same as two other Islamist militias operating in Syria, the al-Nusra front and the al Qaeda offshoot ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
United Nations(WASHINGTON) -- Politicians, artists, and civil rights leaders gathered in Washington on Wednesday at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the Washington National Cathedral.
Vice President Joe Biden, a lead speaker at the service, said that Mandela was the most impressive person he had ever met in his life. Biden also noted how Mandela's influence went far beyond the borders of South Africa.
"President Mandela taught us that trust is possible. Reconciliation is possible. Justice is possible. Change can come," Biden said.
Civil rights leader and former Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young said the former South African president began the "walk to freedom," but now others need to take up the torch.
"The hungry can't eat hope. They can't drink inspiration. They need clean water, they need food... And I hear Madiba saying, we showed you the way, just keep on marching," Young said.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW DELHI) -- India has once again declared gay sex illegal.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court reinstated the original anti-gay law that had been written in the 19th century when India was still ruled by the British. In 2009, that law had been overturned by a lower court -- a ruling that the Supreme Court now says was unconstitutional.
Gay rights advocates in India are outraged and say it is a major blow to their movement, with convictions resulting in a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
After decades of discrimination, India's LGBT community had been growing in recent years, with gay pride marches in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
The Supreme Court says if lawmakers want to repeal the law, they should change it through new legislation.