9 February 2022

Four Down

Tom Stevenson

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi was the fourth leader of the Islamic State organisation, and the fourth to be killed in a US raid or airstrike. In 2006, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was tracked and assassinated with F-16s. In 2010, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was killed in a special forces raid in Tikrit. The first caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in a special forces operation in 2019. US intelligence found al-Qurashi by tracking a courier working for ISIS in Syria’s Idlib province. On the night of 2 February, special forces flew in from Iraq in helicopters, surrounded the house that al-Qurashi had rented (apparently posing as a taxi driver), and ordered the residents out with loudspeakers. Al-Qurashi and twelve others, mostly women and children, were killed. The US claims that al-Qurashi, like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, detonated the bomb that did the damage. The only people left alive who know exactly what happened are the special forces operatives involved, and they are unlikely to tell.

10 June 2020

Who killed Olof Palme?

Bernard Porter and Kajsa Ohrlander

Well, that was a disappointment. For the last couple of weeks, Swedes have been waiting for the results of a new police inquiry into the assassination of Olof Palme in a side street in Stockholm 34 years ago. Even by the standards of political assassinations, Palme’s murder has been more puzzling than most, and more controversial.

5 June 2018

The Last Campaign

Michael Carlson · Robert Kennedy

John Stewart and Buffy Ford warmed up the crowds for Robert Kennedy as he went on the stump in California. ‘Truly as the sun, truly as the rain,’ Stewart later sang, ‘Truly I believe, that it was the last campaign.’ Kennedy won the state’s Democratic primary, of course; and after making his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, on 5 June 1968, he was assassinated. In 1968 I was still four years away from voting age, but I was one of those young people who fuelled Eugene McCarthy’s challenge to Lyndon Johnson. We thought we heard the beginnings of a voice that would penetrate the political machine that was sending us off to die abroad, and resisting the end of apartheid at home. McCarthy didn't win the New Hampshire primary, but his close second-place finish was enough to prompt Johnson not to seek a second term, and enough to prompt Bobby Kennedy into the race.

13 April 2018

Novichok and Other Toxins

Hugh Pennington

The UK has the highest incidence in the world of poisonings caused by the toxins produced by E.coli O157:H7. It killed 17 people in the outbreak centred on Wishaw in central Scotland in 1996, still a world record for lethality. My involvement in attempts to stop a repeat led to an invitation to visit the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down. Security was impressive. The heavily armed welcome at the gate left an abiding memory. It is reasonable to guess that the Russian chemical warfare facility at Shikhany is as well guarded. The notion that nasty substances of high purity could leave it without some kind of authorisation seems highly unlikely.